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  • aliwebb37

California town famous for mud baths

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

My father, at 84, has traveled the world, seen and done almost everything. Wanting to a plan a day trip during a recent trip to see him, we discussed what was still on his bucket list. He had never tried a mud bath.

I did some research and settled on Calistoga, Calif., a Victorian-era town famous for its mineral water and mud in Napa Valley. This small village had been serving up spa treatments since 1862. As a bonus, it was also close to some extraordinary wineries and restaurants for our post-bath afternoon.

The Baths at Roman Spa had enough appointments for seven of us on a bright spring morning. They also offered two-person rooms, each with two tubs, which they advertised for “romantic couple’s baths.”

Given my dad’s age, he needed help getting in and out of the tub and shared a room with my long-suffering and always helpful husband. You can imagine the father-in-law bonding that occurred during the 60-minute treatment.

The session began with immersion in a bath of mud—a combination of Calistoga volcanic ash, peat and natural geothermal mineral water from local springs. A hot mineral bath followed, with a much needed cool-down in the relaxation room to finish the experience.

The mud was very hot and smelled like sulfur, so it was a bit of an acquired taste.

Once I sank down in the tub, however, it seems as if I was floating. Afterward, I felt rejuvenated.

Done with our treatments, we headed to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch, Mustard’s Grill in St Helena. Mustard’s chef/owner, Cindy Pawlcyn, wasn’t at the restaurant, but her staff carried on with their usual panache.

The Grill was named for the wild mustard flowers we saw around the vineyards. For 30 years, they’ve been serving classic American food with an extraordinary wine list. It’s a small place with lots of windows.

We split two entrees, the Niman Ranch Baby Back Ribs and the Seafood Tostada. A couple of our party enjoyed exceptional cheeseburgers and fries. Of course, the burgers were piled high with avocado and bacon. An order of onion rings with house-made tomato-apple ketchup made the lunch perfect.

Barely able to waddle out of the place, the rest of our party decided to do a little shopping in St. Helena, while some of us visited one of our favorite wineries, Corison.

With so many California wineries being absorbed by conglomerates, we wanted to visit a truly family-owned winery that still produces exceptional wines. Corison fit the bill admirably.

Cathy Corison has forged a life of wine that has spanned more than three decades, and she has transcended formidable challenges to become one of the premier female vintners in California. With a master’s in Enology from U.C. Davis in the mid-1970s, and after many years of wine-making for others, she honed her skills and sought to express her own wine-making voice.

In 1987 she made the first vintage of Corison Cabernet. Her vineyard, located between Rutherford and St. Helena, is in a region that is among the best places in the world for making Cabernet. Corison Winery regularly produces some of the most concentrated and superbly ripened fruit anywhere. The harvest of 2011 marks Cathy’s 25th vintage of Corison Cabernet!

Though it’s Cathy’s name on the label, Corison is a true family winery. Cathy’s husband, William Martin, designed the barn, keeps all the equipment humming and manages the day-to-day details of running the business.

On the day we were at the vineyard, he was operating the forklift, even as the mobile labeling truck was tending to the latest vintage of Cathy’s wines.

My dad was tired but he rallied for a glass of cabernet.

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