The luxury brand arrives in quiet Calistoga wine country.
By Hannah Walhout December 26, 2021
On a bright afternoon this fall, I paid a visit to Elusa Winery, operated by Napa winemaking legend Thomas Rivers Brown. The group tasting began with an excellent 2018 sauvignon blanc, which we sipped as we wandered Elusa’s five acres of grapes. Back in the tank room, we got a special taste of a young, still-in-process red — siphoned off for us en route to its second fermentation. We headed deeper into the cellars to taste and taste and taste some more, ending on a high note with the vineyard’s 2012 cabernet sauvignon, born from the same vines we had been touching not long before.
Then, I walked two minutes to my hotel room and took a delicious nap.
When the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley opened in November 2021, in the middle of a working vineyard in Calistoga, California, it had been a long time coming. Construction began five years ago, waylaid by unpredictable setbacks (like last year’s devastating wildfire season) and more expected hurdles (like navigating the intricacies of Napa Valley building ordinances). Calistoga — tucked into the northwest corner of Napa County — is somewhat sleepier than the rest of the region. New things don’t open here that often. So this big, Toronto-based brand had to earn its keep.
“As a newcomer, we are grateful to be welcomed by the locals,” says Mehdi Eftekari, the resort’s general manager, who relocated to California after several years at the Four Seasons Hotel New York. “It’s been important to us to honor and celebrate Calistoga. We are so fortunate to be part of this community.”
One of the ways the resort is embedding itself is through this partnership with Elusa. The first grapes were planted here back in 2001, and Elusa acquired the property in 2010, bringing in Rivers Brown, a Calistoga resident, to begin crafting estate wines. The team had never had an official tasting room — until now.
“Elusa has a synergistic relationship with the resort, so we operate as separate entities and our partnership doesn’t change the way we do things,” explains Luke Magnini, Elusa’s estate director. “The resort was designed and built to be set within our existing vineyard, so guests get a front row seat to the winemaking.” (Plus, says Eftekari, “having a vineyard in our backyard also makes for exceptional views.”)
The Elusa tasting room is located directly below the main dining venue at the Four Seasons: Truss Restaurant + Bar, another of the “only-in-Napa” details that root this property squarely in wine country. A bistro portion of the restaurant is already up and running, helmed by resort executive chef Shaun Acosta — highlights from the California-focused menu include silky, savory marinated gigante beans; the smoky grilled Caesar; a platonic-ideal-level cheeseburger; and caviar service with local roe. The main restaurant and fine-dining chef’s counter are still in the works, but when I visited, the space was already packed with guests, locals, and Bay Area day-trippers.
Elsewhere on-property, 85 rooms and suites are spread across several wood-and-stone buildings that lie low between the olive and oak trees. A 3,400-square-foot standalone villa is also available for exclusive use. (And yes, this is a “resort and residences” — the 20 vineyard-view residential villas have already been claimed, but about half of them are available for rental when the owners aren’t in town.)
“It’s an experience unlike any other in the Napa Valley, and a more boutique environment than many other nearby properties,” explains Eftekari. All accommodations have fireplaces, private terraces, and views of the vines, with many looking out onto the Palisades, the small mountain range that borders Calistoga to the east.
This is still a Four Seasons, though, which means you’ll be well taken care of — even if it occasionally feels more like a personal vacation home than a 22.5-acre resort. The buildings are gathered around a pair of swimming pools (one of which is adults-only) and Campo, the poolside Calexican restaurant helmed by Oaxaca-born chef Juan Agustin. For those flying in privately, Four Seasons’ partnership with NetJets includes Napa-focused in-flight tastings and hard-to-book appointments at NetJets Vintner Circle wineries. Outdoor amenities at the resort include bocce, communal fire pits, and a stable of resort bicycles.
And no Calistoga getaway would be complete without a good spa. “This has been a renowned wellness destination for the past 150-plus years,” Eftekari explains, referring to the area’s famous hot springs. (The name Calistoga is actually a portmanteau of “California”‘ and “Saratoga,” as in Saratoga Springs, New York.) In addition to the requisite facials and massages, Spa Talisa offers treatments involving Calistoga’s famous mud: mineral-rich volcanic ash known for its anecdotal healing properties.
The Four Seasons is well-positioned for exploring the best of Calistoga and nearby St. Helena, as well as Sonoma County, which is right next door. But I would be lying if I told you I spent much time off-property — I was perfectly content to sit on my balcony, watching the autumn mist settle over the vineyards and the mountains beyond.
For more information and to book your stay, visit Four Seasons Napa Valley’s website.