Do On the QT…In Search of Solitude
Like clockwork, I hit a point each October where I can’t quite shake the stress that’s built up over the year. When I turn the calendar and see the holidays are closing in, I know it’s time for a major reset—a retreat from the world to soothe my mind and soul.
I returned to Napa, a place I’ve long adored in the spring for its lively mood. Late autumn/winter is something entirely different. Though the wineries are open, the crowds are gone. Days are mild; evenings crisp. Cloaked in post-harvest hues of russet and gold, the valley evinces a quiet allure. It’s a time for rest and renewal.
Arriving to Calistoga Ranch, I find the retreat in perfect rhythm with the hushed season. I can’t wait to savor simple pleasures—the warmth of the hearth, flavors of the table and wines of the valley—in the company of others or in the blissful seclusion of my lodge.
The heart of the ranch experience is Mother Nature’s gift: 157 acres of ever-present, glorious outdoors. On the first morning, I switch off my cell and set out to summit Joy, one of the private trails. The draw is a sweeping view of the valley, but that proves to be just one of the trek’s innumerable charms. The sense of peace and quiet is sublime. Mid-way in, I realize the canyon isn’t so silent after all. As my mind clears itself of daily dilemmas and to-do lists, I realize the trees and moss-strewn paths are humming with life. Birds carry on conversations across the canopy. I hear leaves rustle as the wind wisps through fragrant pines and oaks. I breathe in earthy notes as a stream gurgles in the mist. While folks have been “forest bathing” for eons to nurture health and happiness, I can understand why immersion in nature is so popular of late—it’s magical, immediate and profound.
Back on the deck of my cozy hideaway, I sip a bold 2015 Cabernet from the ranch’s own Sotero’s Vineyard in front of the fire before a deep soak in my outdoor hot tub. Day one, and the “disconnect” is complete.
Over the next two days, I live in the moment, relaxing at the spa between wine tastings and tasty farm-fresh meals. With its laid back vibe and muted tempo, everything about the ranch seems designed to temper my pace, ease the senses and elevate mindfulness.
As I pack my things, I can’t help but wonder if the resident goats, Olive and Pepper, know how lucky they are to live a life unplugged.