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During the course of the COVID pandemic, the California wine mecca counties of Napa and Sonoma seem to have taken a cue from the grapes they grow so beautifully: strain and adversity have produced a bold bounty of new ventures. As tourism ground to a halt in so many places, vintners, chefs, designers and hospitality gurus nourished their creativity and worked magic. Some in Hollywood found solace there, too, including Phoebe Bridgers who spent time in Sonoma writing new music, and Elizabeth Olsen, who has said that the Sonoma town of St. Helena in Napa Valley was “our breathing space” during the pandemic.
Here, all the new stays, eats, drinks and dos that make a pilgrimage north a must this spring.
WHERE TO STAY
The Madrona: Healdsburg will soon welcome The Madrona (from $650 per night).
A sprawling 1881 residence, it has been reimagined by interior designer Jay Jeffers into a 24-room hotel, which includes a restaurant helmed by chef Jesse Mallgren (Michelin starred for 13 years running).
Don’t expect typical luxury wine country aesthetics; Jeffers put a distinctive spin on Sonoma hospitality with surprises woven across eight lush acres that span a heated lounge pool, fitness center and large garden providing fresh goods to the restaurant. Says Jeffers, a co-owner, of choosing to open in the Sonoma town, “It truly has the best of both worlds with its lively culinary scene, luxury spas and world-class wineries, all while maintaining a small-town-charm feel.”
Stanly Ranch: Also coming onto the scene — with radiant panoramas of the Mayacamas Mountains — is the new Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection (from $1,250). The Napa resort sits on an historic 712-acre working ranch heavy with vines and combines a singular sustainable culinary program (with opportunities to pick your own ingredients in the fields for dinner) with enticing wine country experiences — think flying over vineyards in a vintage WWII aircraft and shucking oysters near Tomales Bay. As decadent as Napa tends to be, Stanly Ranch is also poised to become a true wellness destination, with a next-generation facility that not only serves up pampering but rigorous workouts and state-of-the-art recovery modalities. Captivated guests might also consider moving in: 70 Vineyard Homes with indoor-outdoor flow and full access to the five-star resort’s many amenities are now available for pre-sale reservations (starting in the high $4 millions).
The Residence at Roy Estate: Napa’s hidden gem icon for single-vineyard Grand Cru wines, Roy Estate, has just completed a four-year build to create its wildly exclusive crown jewel, The Residence at Roy Estate. This pinnacle of luxury on the estate’s 42 acres is an overnight accommodation for incredibly tailored experiences only available to patrons who receive their wines through the hyper-competitive allocation process.
Stavrand Russian River Valley: With its grand opening last October, Stavrand Russian River Valley (from $249) brought a new luxury bolthole to quaint Guerneville, en route to the Sonoma Coast, with 21 plush rooms on six forested acres of redwood groves and orchards.
Solage: Singer Jana Kramer hung poolside at Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection (from $799), last summer just as the resort completed a $30 million renovation. In January, the spa revealed gemstone treatments, an exclusive Vintner’s Daughter facial and special wellness perks for guests of its Estate Suites, which include an in-room Peloton.
Inn at Salvestrin: The Inn at Salvestrin (from $450) is a new Victorian mansion–turned–wine estate option within walking distance from St. Helena, with stays including tours and tastings onsite.
Farmhouse Inn: Offering elevated country style and a legendary Michelin-starred restaurant, Farmhouse Inn is completing renovations of its cottages and recently opened its holistically minded Wellness Barn, now featuring a novel spa journey. The Love Languages experience (from $400/person, until June) is inspired by Gary Chapman, Ph.D.’s work on relationships and begins with a Wellness Barn Quiz to determine the guests’ love language — they add food and wine as the sixth — which is then incorporated into a customized candlelit couples massage. Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow and Keanu Reeves are a few of the past guests of the inn.
McClelland House: One of downtown Napa’s oldest B&Bs, McClelland House (from $300), upgraded its offerings over a multimillion-dollar renovation to six rooms with antique beds and Hermès bath products.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chateau Suites: There’s never been a better time to have status at Sonoma’s Jordan Vineyard & Winery, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It recently debuted jaw-dropping renovations by San Francisco interior designer Maria Haidamus of its four chateau suites (available to Gold and Platinum members of Jordan’s rewards program; from $150 to $250, plus 5,000 points a person). The $1 million remodel incorporates pristine European antiques and art, elevated wet bars and glamorous bathrooms clad in handmade Fireclay Tile and botanical wallpapers by Schumacher and Peter Fasano. Members may also reserve tables ($160 per person) for Epicurean Alfresco Lunches from May through August, an ever-changing wine-paired four-course bistro menu accompanied by French music, under oak trees.
WHERE TO EAT
Lo & Behold: Downtown Healdsburg is abuzz of late with fresh restaurant concepts, including Lo & Behold, which serves up comfort foods of the world (like miso macaroni and cheese) alongside farm-to-glass cocktails using produce grown on the vast patio as well as co-owner Tara Heffernon’s orchard.
Little Saint: A star-studded collaboration — which includes SingleThread Farm owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton and celebrity designer Ken Fulk — will soon bring plant-based restaurant Little Saint to Healdsburg’s former SHED space. Beyond the à la carte restaurant, the new Sonoma-sourced eatery includes a quickie cafe and wine shop.
The Matheson: This new fine dining restaurant, where Kate Hudson and Santa Rosa resident Guy Fieri have recently dined, is a love letter to Sonoma’s growers, ranchers, fishers and foragers. Opened in September, The Matheson fulfills chef Dustin Valette’s dream of intricately pairing world-class vinos — there are a stunning 88 available by the glass at the wine wall — with his own wildly creative regional cuisine (plus exquisite sushi by master Ken Tomanaga). Think aged Sonoma duck with satsuma mandarin and Tokyo turnip with a Pinot Noir made especially for the restaurant by master Sonoma winemaker Bob Cabral. Valette says the intention was to create “an unpretentious, warm and inviting community” and recommends “a cocktail on our rooftop.” Valette’s restaurant portfolio also includes his acclaimed eponymous Valette, where Kelly Clarkson dined in January. The singer has also tweeted that Valette’s Healdsburg restaurant Barndiva, which just earned its first Michelin star, is “amazing.”
Truss: The deluxe 85-key Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, opened last November, is the only Napa Valley resort whose home is a working winery, Elusa, famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon. After a meal at the chic and unmissable Truss Restaurant + Bar, guests staying through March can book a private four-course igloo experience (from $185/person for two to six diners) and savor a meal of cured duck breast and porcini truffle risotto while cozied up in blankets under a blanket of stars.
By Invitation Only: Darioush Khaledi’s By Invitation Only high-end tasting experience — where you’ll dine surrounded by bottles of the world’s best wines in his personal cellar — unveiled a new spring menu ($150/person) by executive chef Sean Massey. Sourced from his estate garden and local farms, it’s an ode to the season in the form of courses including beets three ways, sweet pea agnolotti and braised lamb.
WHERE TO SIP
Mayacamas: Sitting on 475 acres on the slopes of Mount Veeder in Napa since 1889, this high-end winery beloved by LeBron James has just debuted its first Estate Hospitality Center. Mayacamas‘ obsessed-over vinos, including Cabernet Sauvignon ($135/bottle), are now available for tasting in the new elegant-rustic space as well as outdoors while savoring the views.
Vida Valiente Winery: Napa’s new winery, Vida Valiente, bowed in November with a rising star winemaker, Sam Kaplan (the guy behind 100-point Memento Mori) and a strikingly philanthropic approach, pledging $100 per $250 bottle of 2019 The Movement Cabernet Sauvignon to support the professional success of low-income, first-generation American students.
Vérité Estate: One of Sonoma’s most award-winning and exclusive labels, Vérité, opened a tasting salon outside Healdsburg, where a library comparison tasting ($350) allows aficionados to explore how three vintages match up with current pours.
Maison Healdsburg: A handful of SingleThread alum have joined forces for a fresh wine bar — open until 2 a.m., a rarity in downtown Healdsburg — dubbed Maison Healdsburg, expected to open soon. They’ll pour Sonoma Coast wines plus similar varietals from Burgundy, plus Champagne and craft sake and beer, holding weekly educational classes, too.
Marine Layer: Another drinking destination as of last fall is the Hommeboys-designed tasting room for small-batch Marine Layer, whose coastal blue, white and wood space matches the mood of its cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Other sips and inventive bites are also served alongside cool tunes.
Donum Estate: As much as its Ai Weiwei zodiac head–emblazoned bottles and other limited reserve wines are the draw at Donum Estate, their blue-chip sculptures are a compelling reason to visit, too. A monumental El Anatsui wall hanging is the latest addition to the collection, worth checking out in tandem with the prismatic new tasting pavilion by Studio Other Spaces, debuting this summer.
Wing & Barrel Ranch: Elite oenophiles are lured to wine country’s exclusive private day club, Wing & Barrel Ranch, which for a $150,000 initiation fee grants access to seasonal bird hunting, fishing, dog training plus culinary offerings by a pedigreed Napa chef, plus once-in-a-lifetime interactions with vintner members such as A. Rafanelli, CIRQ Estate and Chateau Montelena on upland bird hunts or sporting clay shoots followed by celebratory meals, winery tours and dinners at Charlie Palmer’s restaurants.
Gentleman Farmer: Watch for an upcoming dedicated tasting space in downtown Napa for Gentleman Farmer, the gay-owned boutique winery that until now did mailing list–only distribution of its Old World–inspired Cabernet Sauvignon ($105) and more.
WHAT TO DO
Montage Healdsburg Experiences: Montage Healdsburg, the biggest resort debut of 2021 — which has welcomed Justin and Hailey Bieber as well as Taylor Lautner — has partnered with Adventure IO on some of the most epic wine country experiences imaginable, such as a 100-Point Wine Tour visiting two 100-point Wine Advocate earners, as well as a $5,900 Helicopter Adventure (for one to five guests) aboard a Bell 407GX that follows the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean with coastal views and a landing on the way back for an exclusive tasting. Even more out of this world is the Sky’s the Limit astrotourism package (from $95,000/night) which includes private flights with Jet Edge; a stay at the property’s three-bedroom Guest House; a private tour of the Robert Ferguson Observatory; and a photography session with astrophotographer Rachid Dahnoun to create a limited-edition image of the guests amid the night sky.
Bohemian Highway Travel Co.’s Wine & Design Tour: This new Bohemian Highway Travel Co. tour ($595/person) is an intriguing and exclusive way to experience the valleys’ best architecture and vino, including at Flowers Vineyards & Winery, Ashes & Diamonds and Faust Haus vineyard, centered on Heather Herbert’s book, The New Architecture of Wine (a signed copy is included).
Hotel Healdsburg Mushroom Foraging: The Hotel Healdsburg offers a mushroom foraging experience through March 31 in partnership with Notre Vue Estate & Winery including, among other treats, a special dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen using what you foraged ($688 for two).
Bricoleur Yoga Mini Retreats and E-Bike Rides: As wellness and wine go hand in hand more than ever, Bricoleur Vineyards is at the forefront with its Sunday yoga classes and new mini-retreats beginning with the May 29 Preparing for Summer Solstice ($135/person) comprising yoga, crystal singing bowl sound healing and a picnic lunch. The delightful family-friendly winery has also launched a Pedal to Wellness program with Farmhouse Inn: an ebike ride to Bricoleur for a 30-minute yoga class and Rooted tasting, plus visits to two other wineries on the ride back. (A private 60-minute class can be arranged for $350.)
Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs’ Mud Baths: Calistoga’s toxin-eliminating mud baths are famous, and perhaps the most legendary of them, are at Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs. A destination since 1952, it is once again open, post total resort reimagining. Go for The Works ($329): a mud bath with facial mask, mineral whirlpool bath, geo-steam room, blanket wrap and 30-minute massage.
Inspire Napa Valley: The hottest ticket in town over the last weekend of April is Inspire Napa Valley, a weekend of VIP events hosted by K. Laz Wine Collection including the Walk-Around Wine Tasting (April 30) featuring ultra-exclusive sips, dinner and a live auction (from $1,000/person), all benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association.
The Barlow Market: When some shopping (or even a glass blowing class) is in order, head to Sebastopol’s lively and sprawling The Barlow Market, where artisan Michael Dickinson— whose work has been collected by Jerry Bruckheimer — recently opened his DIckinson Glass showroom and studio.
REAL ESTATE — ON THE MARKET IN NAPA
Wine Country Estate with Japanese Design Inspiration: Located in Napa County’s St. Helena (where Robert Redford sold an estate in 2019 for $7 million), a seven-bedroom, lake-view home on 41 acres is inspired by renovated Meiji-era homes in Japan. In addition to the main house (built of cedar, steel and glass), there’s a studio, guest house, gym, home theater, tennis court and pool. It’s listed with Hillary Ryan of Sotheby’s International Realty for $26 million.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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