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Tuesday, 22 June 2021 21:50

Renovated Spa Reopens in Calistoga

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Enjoying that mud bath in the early days at Doc Wilkinson's Enjoying that mud bath in the early days at Doc Wilkinson's

TASTE News Service, June 23, 2021 – Chartres Lodging Group has announced that Calistoga's geothermal spa, Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, is now open and welcoming guests once again. 

Doc Wilkinson exterior with Buick Picmonkey

The announcement caps a year-long closing of the world-famous resort and a complete renovation by the design firms SB Architects and EDG Design.  The new iteration of the iconic resort, founded in 1952 by the pioneering wellness practitioner John "Doc" Wilkinson and his wife, Edy, includes the addition of a culinary venture, House of Better, charmingly updated guest rooms, and a thorough remodeling of the spa facilities.

The spa on Calistoga's main street, easily identifiable by its original neon sign and classic 1952 Buick Special parked at the curb, has attracted wellness seekers from around the world to its rejuvenating mud baths and healing waters for seven decades.  The resort features a fresh mid-century-inspired design, 50 renovated guest rooms, three geothermal mineral pools, a brand-new restaurant with expansive outdoor dining space, and a reimagined spa.

The new resort offers a mix of guest room types, including a standalone, one-bedroom bungalow; three Spa Cottages featuring clawfoot tubs for soaking; a Peloton room for fitness-minded travelers; and a restored, five-room, 1924-vintage Victorian bunkhouse that sleeps 15, ideal for group travel and retreats.  The renovation weaves in playful experiential touch points throughout, including a backyard lawn area for games and picnicking, and a retro-inspired lobby featuring an innovative water installation and a variety of local apothecary products.  On-site programming includes backyard Pinot & Pétanque games, Wilk's Wine Night as part of Visit Calistoga's Fourth Fridays, and wellness-oriented offerings.

"As we embarked upon this renovation, one of our most important goals was to maintain the spirit of this property and honor the resort's longstanding commitment to wellness and happiness," said Robert Kline, CEO & co-founder of Chartres Lodging Group.  "We're extremely proud to be the stewards of Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs and the agents of its renewal.  We hope our resort will provide a relaxed and approachable inspiration for locals and visitors to live well, whether that means enjoying a full day of healing treatments at our spa or simply having a glass of wine, a slice of pie, and a game of kubb on our lawn."

Mid-Century, Modernized - The Design

With an emphasis on preserving historic architecture and respecting the resort's integrity and legacy, SB Architects led the exterior redesign of the property, restoring three Victorian buildings, spotlighting the expansive property's natural assets, and opening up public spaces to the outdoors.  EDG Design spearheaded the interior renovation, inspired by a modern take on mid-century style. The airy, redesigned lobby is retro-with-a-twist, featuring an art installation of 52 clay disks behind the check-in desk (a nod to the hotel's opening year) and a water tower that celebrates Calistoga's long tradition of soothing travelers with its mineral-rich natural spring waters. 

Backyard at House of Better PicmonkeyGuests enjoy backyard atmosphere at House of Better

The spa features a fresh and calming palette with touches of terra cotta for an element of earth, while guestrooms feature designs that harken back to 1950s style, with original block walls refreshed with bright, white paint, white oak floors, and a warm color palette. Guest room accents include locally made artwork, one-of-a-kind handmade pottery pieces by local ceramics studio NBC Pottery, and a graphic map of the area, encouraging guests to explore the charming town of Calistoga. Curated art throughout the property highlights local artists, and artwork inspired by Edy Wilkinson's beloved mosaics enliven the spa.

"Adapting an iconic wellness spa to match the modern experiential traveler's expectations has been an exciting challenge. Our design vision acknowledges seven decades of pioneering history while creating a backyard environment that takes you back to your experiences and dreams of childhood exploration," said Maki Nakamura Bara, co-founder of Chartres Lodging Group. "We designed spaces for relaxation as well as places for fun. And we crafted a restaurant that satiates and stretches your palate without stretching your waistband. Hop on the swing, hang out by the pool or soak under the stars – this is a place of relaxation and rediscovery."

House of Better - The Restaurant 

House of Better is the resort's new counter-service restaurant and bar by Trevor Logan of San Francisco's Green Chile Kitchen and his Sonoma-based Chile Pies Baking Co.  Inspired by Logan's time in New Mexico and his background in health and nutrition, House of Better features Southwestern-inspired food with a nourishing slant. Offering a balance between modern California comfort food and healthful options, the menu incorporates fibrous and Vitamin C enriched green chiles in traditional New Mexican dishes, such as green chile stew and nutritionally dense protein booster bowls. 

Also on the menu are daily fresh-baked pies from Chile Pies Baking Co., including their famous green chile apple pie with a cheddar crust, walnut streusel topping and a slightly spicy chili glaze.  The robust beverage menu also focuses on wellness, offering fermented drinks and adaptogenic mushroom teas, plus a curated list of local wines and beers on tap.  House of Better encourages diners to eat outdoors, see the wood-fired over and chili roaster in action, and make full use of its expansive covered patio and back lawn area. 

The Same Time-Honored Treatments, With a Twist - The Spa

The Spa at Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs remains the main attraction of the resort, offering the same world-renowned, mineral-rich mud bath treatments and secret-formula mud mixture of organic, local Calistoga volcanic ash perfected by Doc Wilkinson almost 70 years ago. The reimagined spa experience, designed by TLEE Spas, draws upon natural finishes, terrazzo stone floors, cedar wood, and recycled porcelain tiles to create the ideal balance of relaxation and rejuvenation.  The spa features four completely renovated massage rooms, a brand-new outdoor spa garden for al fresco treatments, four indoor mud baths, seven indoor and two outdoor mineral baths, cold deluge shower, and dedicated geothermal mineral pool filled with calming, varied temperature water sourced from Calistoga's natural healing springs.

Dr. Wilkinson's unique mineral waters have been evaluated by the Balneology Association of North America (BANA), the leading authority of therapeutic bathing and medicinal springs, and are classified as distinctive, neutralizing, balancing waters with the ability to strengthen skin, balance the peripheral nervous system, reset stressed nervous systems, hydrate, and detoxify. Treatment highlights include The Works, featuring Dr. Wilkinson's famed mud bath treatment, facial mask, aromatic mineral whirlpool bath, steam room, blanket wrap, and 30-minute massage; the Body Brew, featuring mineral whirlpool bath treatment with fresh hops, dry ale yeast, malt, barley, and a local beer on the side; and a 30-minute sound therapy treatment designed to achieve a balance of relaxation and revitalization. A full treatment menu can be found here.

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