Things slow down in Calistoga in the winter. There’s less activity in the vineyards and tourists hold off visiting until the weather warms. But the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce has an enticement to get people to come to town, stay and experience a wide variety of what the town has to offer.
Now in its ninth year, the Winter in the Wineries Passports event runs from Dec. 1 to Feb. 3. The $60 Passports are good for discounts at lodging, shops and spas, complimentary corkage at participating restaurants, and complimentary tastings and discounts at 17 Calistoga wineries.
The program is designed by the Chamber and the Welcome Center.
“Really if you go to just two wineries the Passport pays for itself,” said Charlene Peters, director of marketing for the Chamber.
Thousands of people take advantage of the event every year, Peters said. Last year almost 4,100 Passports were sold, with more than half the sales originating from Castello di Amorosa.
The Passport program is advantageous for participating wineries, too. It brings in guests who might not otherwise visit during the winter months.
Sheri Bowen, hospitality and retail manager at Chateau Montelena, said there are still people out there who don’t know their wines and this program gives the winery an opportunity to introduce itself to new customers. It also brings visitors to the most northern city in Napa County, which is sometimes a challenge for Calistoga.
Because of the extra business, “We are also able to offer shifts for our staff in the off season,” Bowen said.
Tamber Bey Vineyards has participated every year since the program’s inception and sees an increase in off-season traffic, said Jennifer Waitte, president and general manager at the Tubbs Lane winery. While extra wine purchases are “hit or miss” with Passport customers, “Many do buy something, at least a bottle or two,” she said.
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Sales at Laura Michael Wines is also good, said proprietor Laura Swanton.
“We convert over 85 percent of guests into customers,” she said.
Those who purchase a Passport directly from participating wineries receive some extras, like at August Briggs Winery, where they will add on a complimentary chocolate and wine pairing upgrade.
At Maldonado Family Vineyards, Chateau Montelena, and Laura Michael Wines, purchasers will get a free tasting of a reserve wine.
The culinary scene is part of the Passport program with participating restaurants offering complimentary corkage on wine purchased at any of the 17 participating wineries.
Passport holders also get a break at 12 different lodging locations, with discounts on room rates ranging from 10 to 25 percent depending on availability.
Visit Calistoga is holding a contest now through Nov. 30, for a chance to win two Passports, a two-night stay at The Bungalows of Calistoga, a “Connoisseur’s Cave Tour” for two at Clos Pegase, and a two-hour complimentary bicycle rental at Calistoga Bikeshop. The winner will be notified by Dec. 1.
Full details can be found at https://visitcalistoga.com/winter-in-the-wineries-passport