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Ranch Style

One Wine Country Ranch Offers Everything But the Cattle Drive

Everything is different in Wine Country. When people here go to the grocery store to pick up some produce and cheese, they come home with a bushel of organic endive grown just blocks from the store and a wheel of cheese made with the milk from goats grazing on the hills above the parking lot. Whether a “store” or a “barn” or an “inn,” things are always a little more than what they seem in Wine Country.

The same holds true for the ranch. Sure there are a lot of working ranches in Wine Country – after all, at its essence the region is still about farming. And the ranches in Wine Country do still tend to the business of farming. But there are others that lend more to the definition and, in true Wine Country style, go well beyond expectations. One such place is Mayacamas Ranch (3975 Mountain Home Ranch Road, Calistoga; 707-942-5127; www.mayacamasranch.com), in the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains just north of Calistoga. Giving new meaning to the term ranch hands, guests at Mayacamas are asked to punch doggies or rustle up some grub. Instead they are treated to a pampered escape that includes but is not limited to the overall enhancement of one’s personal well being.

Mayacamas Ranch is a popular spot for weddings, with its all-inclusive and self-contained nature, it is an idyllic spot for groups to gather and feel together. But there is much more on offer than a backdrop for the beginnings of wedded bliss. The history of the land upon which the ranch is established tells of the Native Yuki Wappo people, who apparently gathered to hold ritual celebrations and community councils on the grounds. Mayacamas aims to continue in at least a form of those traditions, acting as a destination for high-level think sessions and serving as the home of the Mayacamas Institute, whose mission it is to endow and support non-profit projects in the environmental health, wellness and social realms.

It’s all very serious social stuff. And just part of what makes the Mayacamas Ranch appealing on many levels. Of course, most of us will be drawn to the Ranch by its more mundane attractions—those related to food and wine and rest and relaxation. With just 24 rooms, the Ranch is never in danger of being overrun by a small population even on the busiest weekends (weddings and events, with their non-overnight guests, of course, the exception). Accommodations are offered in individual cottages and small homes, each offering unique character. But most time at Mayacamas is not spent in one’s room.

Among the litany of reasons to spend an extended weekend or longer at Mayacamas is the chance to better yourself inside and out. From massage sessions and yoga classes, to culinary seminars and wine tastings, a few days at the Ranch can be transformative for a lifetime. Mayacamas offers cooking classes designed to help you understand the merits of cooking healthy dishes that are as good as they are good for you. Meanwhile, wine tastings are docent-led and focus on the wines produced in the immediately surrounding appellations and are designed to help you get in touch and be at ease with your personal tastes. To further stretch the boundaries of a “working ranch,” Mayacamas also offers a menu of mind-body workshops that range from helping you better manage stress and putting you in touch with your inner artist.

It’s not the only guest ranch in the area worth spending a weekend, but Mayacamas is one of the inimitable, colorful threads that make the Wine Country fabric so special.