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Calistoga historic train depot to reopen under new leadership

Calistoga’s historic train depot is slated to reopen on April 25, but with a twist. The anticipated opening of the remodeled depot, along with a string of newly renovated train cars, will not be...

The Calistoga Depot will officially open to the public on Thursday, April 25. | Photo by Alexander Ruben

Calistoga’s historic train depot is slated to reopen on April 25, but with a twist.

The anticipated opening of the remodeled depot, along with a string of newly renovated train cars, will not be operated by the Boisset Collection. Instead, Yountville resident and entrepreneur Michael Madden will oversee the property’s four restaurants and three bars.

“We’re going to be the coolest place, and we’re going to have the best people,” Madden said. “I’m totally excited. I mean, I think any person with a pulse who got an opportunity to be a part of this would be excited. You’d be crazy not to be.”

The Hawaii native made his career in the publishing industry and is a longtime resident of Yountville, where he acted as executive director and board president of the Lincoln Theater for more than a decade.

News that the full property will open next month comes almost three years after French vintner and Boisset Collection proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset purchased the Lincoln Avenue property in 2021. While Madden’s takeover may seem like a big departure from Boisset’s original plans, Madden said the transfer of operations was a natural development.

Madden, whose wife Robbie Schmidt has operated Earth & Sky Chocolates from one of the site’s train cars for about five years, said he was the one who initially introduced Boisset to the historic property, suggesting they lease it from the Merchant family.

“Jean-Charles said, ‘Why would we lease it? This thing’s too cool, why don't we just buy it?’” recalled Madden.

So Boisset purchased the depot and Madden’s construction company spent the next two years renovating it.  

“We built the vision together, we built the space together, and then we launched Provisions as a starting point,” Madden said. He admitted, “It wasn’t perfectly executed in its launch, so he stopped in November, he regrouped, and in December he asked me to take over.”

Madden said he’s uninterested in being the focus of the grand opening next month.

“It’s not just about me, it’s not just about Jean-Charles, it’s not just about Sam Brannan. It’s not just about one person,” Madden said.

He and his team are working to hire more than 50 employees by next month’s opening. So far, he said they’ve hired a staff of about 30 people – which he said will include exciting names in Napa Valley hospitality that he wasn’t ready to publicly confirm.

Outside of the decision by Boisset Collection to lease the property, Madden said that the business will mostly operate as initially envisioned by Boisset.

One notable deviation is that the Calistoga Depot Provisions gourmet grocery and retail shop, originally modeled after Boisset’s Oakville Grocery and the only part of the property that opened to the public last July, will return as a plant-based café and restaurant. 

Husband-wife duo Brook and Terri Penquite will operate the space as Provisions by Nova Terra Kitchen & Creamery, where they will sell hand-crafted, vegan-friendly cheeses and other locally sourced plant-based goods. They will also serve as the property’s directors of operations and hospitality, respectively.

In addition to Earth & Sky Chocolates, four other train cars have been transformed into separate operations, including a dining car that will serve Mexican cuisine and Boisset’s Casa Obsidian tequila; a parlor car that will serve Champagne and caviar; a Sam Brannan-inspired bar and saloon, and a wine and spirits mercantile.

A distillery bar inside the depot, designed with input from Calistoga’s Sharpsteen Museum to pay homage to the city’s history, will include local spirit tastings and craft cocktails. Previously, the distillery had been available only for private events and classes.

Outside, live music will be performed on weekends and a beer garden will feature local craft beers as well as menu items from the property’s various dining options.