California’s Napa Valley lures visitors with its hundreds of wineries, excellent cuisine, and picturesque rolling hills. Eating, drinking, and shopping are the main activities here, so come prepared to splurge on both calories and cash, especially if you spring on a stay at one of the area’s top luxury hotels.
Auberge du Soleil
With beautiful views of rolling green countryside and lush, peaceful grounds, this 50-room luxury inn is a truly special, truly romantic wine country retreat. In fact, it is one of the most exclusive (and expensive) hotel destinations in Napa Valley. Despite its intimate size, Auberge du Soleil has all the amenities of a larger resort: a 7,000-square-foot luxury spa, a lovely pool and whirlpool area, and a Michelin-star restaurant. The luxurious, homey rooms feature exposed wood beams and big terraces, as well as Nespresso machines and free minibar items (and, in most, fireplaces and soaking tubs).
Spread over 250 acres of hilly oak forest, Meadowood Napa Valley is a luxurious and secluded wine-focused retreat. The luxury property has 85 suites, cottages, and lodges, all with wood-burning stone fireplaces, private balconies, and California king or queen beds. Guests are encouraged to use the property’s four miles of hiking trails, two outdoor pools, tennis courts, nine-hole golf course, championship croquet lawn, extensive spa, and fitness center with free daily classes. The hotel also has a variety of dining choices, including the Michelin three-star The Restaurant at Meadowood. Staff is extremely attentive, with a “your wish is my command” attitude. But travelers could also check out Auberge du Soleil, another luxury resort in the same area with a slightly more intimate size.
Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort is a forested, 157-acre property with a collection of secluded and exceptional private homes, called lodges. Featuring plenty of wood and stone, the lodges beautifully complement their untouched natural surroundings and are made up of separate “modules” built around an outdoor living room with a fireplace, grill, and outdoor shower. (All modules were flown in by helicopter to minimize environmental impact and to maximize privacy.) Bedroom modules have a chic contemporary design with flat-screen TVs, Italian linens, working fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and spacious bathrooms with large soaking tubs (there are also outdoor hot tubs). Outside of the lodges, the hotel offers hiking trails and a top-of-the-line restaurant and spa. The property boasts plenty of activities, including outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, a fabulous fitness center, and wine tasting seminars. However, its feature list can’t quite compare to Meadowood’s, which includes free daily fitness classes and a nine-hole golf course.
This understated, peaceful getaway features an upscale, contemporary atmosphere and 89 separate bungalow homes with semi-private patios. Studios and suites all have high-vaulted ceilings, large flat-screen HDTVs, minibars, and two cruisers parked outside, and many have gas fireplaces, which add a warm touch to what some might consider cold decor. Sleek bathrooms have large soaking tubs, separate rainfall showers, and locally made bath products. The on-site restaurant, Solbar, is Michelin-starred and features outdoor lounge seating shaded by trees. There are two pools, as well as private cabanas, a poolside foosball table, and a well-sized fitness center with outdoor equipment. Note that the hotel can experience noise during on-site events such as weddings when extra non-guests can become a bother. Those looking for true seclusion amid gorgeous scenery should consider Calistoga Ranch instead.
Luxury and sustainability go hand-in-hand at this swanky, artistically landscaped eco-resort. The hotel’s use of solar power, geothermal wells, and organic cleaning products helped it earn its LEED platinum certification. The 62 rooms are filled with natural light and have many high-end extras: fireplaces; large flat-screen TVs; Fili D’oro Linens; and private, furnished balconies or patios. Each bathroom is outfitted with a separate, deep soaking tub placed in front of a large picture window. Upgrading to a Steam Spa Suite gets you an indoor shower/steam room and an outdoor shower. The on-site restaurant offers field-to-fork cuisine, while the Spa Therapy Center features a full range of face and body treatments (from vinotherapy to Thai massage). The rooftop pool deck offers pretty mountain views, shaded sun beds, and a hot tub — though the pool itself is a tiny lap pool. Serious swimmers will be much happier at Solage, which has two large pools, one for laps. Free activities at Bardessono include yoga, hiking, and cycling (with loaner bikes available for guests).
At Carneros Resort and Spa, hillside Adirondack chairs overlook the vineyard and crackling fireplaces warm every room. Private gardens, tree-lined infinity pools, and cozy cottages with fireplaces invite guests to relax. The entire resort feels like it’s set on a farm, with rolling hills and a farmers’ market on-site. The 99 bright and airy suites, cottages, and private homes all have fireplaces, big beds with crisp white featherbedding, and open bathrooms with huge walk-in showers and deep soaking tubs. Cottages feature private decks and stone patios, with fire pits and outdoor tubs and showers. The property has three restaurants, one of which overlooks the vineyard, as well as two outdoor pools with private cabanas and a covered pool bar. There are free bikes, an ample fitness center, and a full-service spa with Ayurvedic treatments and hair salon. The main con here is the extremely high rates, which soar even higher than Bardessono’s.
Housed in a tiny Mediterranean-style complex, North Block Hotel is a romantic 20-room boutique hotel within walking distance of acclaimed Yountville restaurants, like The French Laundry. Its cozy and elegant rooms feature wonderful beds, espresso machines, and luxurious bathrooms (but no fireplaces or private patios, like Carneros). North Block’s intimate spa offers personalized treatments and a signature lavender saltwater pool, and there’s another pool outdoors, with shaded lounge areas and a whirlpool. Redd Wood, the hotel’s restaurant from James Beard Award-nominated Chef Richard Reddington offers Italian-inspired cuisine.
Milliken Creek Inn and Spa
Milliken Creek Inn & Spa is located along the peaceful Napa River, just a five-minute drive from Napa’s downtown area. The luxury inn has limited amenities (no restaurant, for example), but its 12 rooms are superb. They feature two-person tubs; working fireplaces (in all rooms but one); and free soda, water, and coffee. Some rooms have canopy beds and private river-view terraces. This is a great pick for a couple looking for romance — you’ll return to your room in the evening to lit tea candles and soft music, and you can opt to have free breakfast served every morning in bed, on your patio, or anywhere on the grounds. There is an amazing full-service spa, but no fitness center — guests receive free passes to a high-end wellness center two miles down the road. Travelers looking for chicer style and more on-site facilities (like a pool) will likely like North Block more.
The classic California wine country retreat gets a Tuscan twist at Hotel Yountville, an 80-room boutique hotel on Yountville’s main street, minutes from the town’s best restaurants. An airy great room-slash-lobby gives the impression of an oversized yet elegant vacation house. Beyond that, the casual-chic guest rooms — equipped with fieldstone fireplaces, 55-inch flat-screen TVs, and, in most cases, four-poster beds and jetted tubs — further enhance the homey vibe. The property also offers a full-service spa, a courtyard pool, event spaces, and assorted freebies (Wi-Fi, wine tastings, and loaner bikes among them); however, there’s neither a fitness center nor all-day eatery here. If you’re looking for a comparably sized alternative with more on-site features (and have more room in the budget), consider Carneros instead.
Set on eight acres of manicured grounds flanked by wineries, Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer has a beautiful Napa Valley location one mile from St. Helena. Many of the 78 spacious, rustically decorated rooms come with fireplaces and terraces, and all have minibars, Keurig coffee machines, and flat-screen TVs. Inn amenities are geared toward maximum relaxation. In 2015, the property added a full-service restaurant, Harvest Table, under the name of celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer. The restaurant has a changing menu of fresh, seasonal dishes — so fresh, in fact, the restaurant uses some of its ingredients from the Inn’s five on-site gardens. There is an extensive wine list, and guests can also order all manner of drinks from the hotel’s cozy and exceptionally well-stocked lobby bar. The restaurant also serves the hotel’s free breakfast buffet with hot and cold standards. Additional amenities include two heated outdoor pools and whirlpools, and a simple spa. (Spa lovers will prefer the facilities at Hotel Yountville, which include Vichy showers and hydrotherapy tubs.) In all, this is a great choice if you’re daydreaming of a luxury stay in the heart of wine country.