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This week, we’re diving into the best hotels in the wine-famous Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California.
Northern California’s wine country has no shortage of lodgings—seemingly every third house is a bed and breakfast. Hotel Healdsburg, though, is something unique; this full service luxury hotel bucks the faux-rustic trend in favor of sleek modern design.
California’s Napa Valley is an extraordinary destination from top to bottom, as the heart of the state’s wine industry and home to more than its share of fine cooking. But Yountville deserves special notice; inch for inch it’s more densely packed with extraordinary restaurants than anywhere else in America. With The Estate, a new luxury development at the heart of town, its fortunes continue to rise — here you’ll find two upscale hotels of note, the quietly elegant Vintage House and the livelier, more contemporary Hotel Villagio.
Vintage House is a thorough re-imagining of an earlier hotel, and in its new incarnation it’s one of Napa Valley’s most impressive luxury hotel — a category that poses some stiff competition. It’s set on 22 acres of land, and its 80 rooms and suites are divided into a number of smaller buildings, which only intensifies the feeling of pastoral seclusion.
Meadowood Napa Valley
Several towns in California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys have a legitimate claim on the title of America’s culinary capital, and St. Helena, home of the West Coast branch of the Culinary Institute of America, is a strong contender. These days it’s also home to one of the California wine country’s most rarefied — and wine-obsessed — hotels. Meadowood Napa Valley was a country club first, a winemaking estate second, and only recently has it emerged as an absolutely first-rate luxury resort.
Carneros Resort and Spa
A break from the Tuscan-Provençal style that seems to dominate the California wine country. Carneros Resort and Spa, at the south end of Napa, close to San Francisco, is rather more modern, its style a sort of rustic minimalism, its inspiration seemingly drawn not from Europe but from the American Midwest and Northeast.
Calistoga Ranch might sound like a rustic old cattlemen’s hideout, and given its location in the upper Napa valley one could mistake it for a nature commune, or some kind of eco-retreat. In fact it’s a modern and highly polished luxury resort, easily on a par with the world’s finest rural getaways.
Not exactly a household name, Forestville lies some ways off the most heavily beaten path of the Napa/Sonoma wine country, partway from Santa Rosa to the Russian River town of Guerneville. As such it’s something of an escape within an escape, a break not just from the city but from all the commotion on the winery-and-restaurant circuit. This is a town where a farmhouse inn, despite its French restaurant, doesn’t have to have a French name, or really much of a name at all — it’s just the Farmhouse Inn. You’re close enough to partake in all that you wish. But you’re also comfortably ensconced in six idyllic acres, on an estate comprising of just eighteen rooms, suites and cottages.
Just three or four decades on from the beginning of the great Northern California wine boom, and finally a local style is emerging. Italian and French architecture made sense in the early years, when the wineries of the Napa and Sonoma valleys were still striving to be taken as seriously as their European counterparts. But today’s California has a homegrown architectural tradition, a fine example of which is downtown Healdsburg’s decidedly modern h2hotel.
Harmon Guest House
We’ve talked at great length in these pages about the perplexingly insecure tendency of California wine country hotels to imitate backward-looking Tuscan or Provençal forms, so it’s only fair we give credit to those that are comfortable locating themselves in present-day California. Harmon Guest House is one of these — this ultra-modern boutique hotel in the heart of Healdsburg was designed by San Francisco architect David Baker, and like all the best in modernist-inspired architecture, it couldn’t have been built anywhere else.
Timber Cove Resort
Napa / Sonoma Valleys
Cutting back on screen time and returning to the simple pleasures of long walks, good conversations, reading actual books — it’s a worthy goal, but it’s easier said than done. Sometimes you need a little help to unplug. Enter Timber Cove Resort, situated on a quiet stretch of the Sonoma Coast, high on a bluff over the Pacific. It’s not that they have some sort of strict leave-your-iPhone-by-the-door policy. It’s just that the resort is slightly removed from civilization, outside of cell phone range — even the wi-fi is a little spotty up here.