BY CHARLENE PETERS | PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRANNAN COTTAGE INN

Over 150 years ago, California’s first millionaire, Samuel Brannan, envisioned Calistoga as a resort town for wealthy city folks drawn to the area’s hot springs. He was instrumental as the town’s founder and for pulling the railway tracks from San Francisco to make it a regional transportation hub.

Since then, businesses bearing his surname have come and gone, but one historic landmark remains – Calistoga’s first hotel, Brannan Cottage Inn. The inn, owned by Brannan since it opened in 1860, remains on its original location on Wappo Avenue, a street named after the native tribe who first discovered the land’s healing assets of hot springs and mud.

As the first hotel in town, its ownership has changed over time, but since 2019, Carl Dene took the reins intending to give the property more recognition. “It’s an unbelievably special property that nobody really knows about,” he said.

With respect to the property, Dene’s focus as the new owner was to bring back its roots as a gathering spot, but this time, not only for residing guests. His goal was to garner attention from the entire Napa Valley community on this place to gather and begin the day with a coffee at Sam’s General Store, the on-property café that opened three years ago.

Since its opening, Sam’s General Store has accomplished its plan to serve the Valley. In fact, Napa Valley Register recently awarded the spot as a Reader’s Choice Award “Favorite Coffee Shop in Napa Valley.”

For anyone seeking a place to sit outside, gather for a meeting, or meet up post-tennis with the team, there’s a spot waiting on Sam’s lovely patio to enjoy a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso. Neighbors gather for regular visits to sip coffee, and some even knit by the firepit.

Guests staying at Brannan Cottage Inn are offered complimentary breakfast and coffee. The choice of homemade recipes includes individual quiches, frittatas, breakfast sandwiches, and empanadas.

After the last sip of coffee, guests can shop inside the store for gifts, knickknacks, and branded items to remind them of this special spot in Napa Valley. The store also offers snacks and wine for purchase, including its own label: Brannan Wines. And why not? According to Dene, Brannan was one of the first pioneers and visionaries behind the idea of large-scale vineyards in the valley.

Brannan purchased 1,500 acres where he planted experimental varietals. Misfortune ensued with the vineyard pest, phylloxera, followed by his divorce. He died penniless but left his legacy as the visionary behind Napa Valley’s hospitality business, beginning with Calistoga.

FOR MORE INFORMATION www.brannancottageinn.com