You may have been to Northern California Wine Country featuring the star players – Napa and Sonoma – but did you do anything other than taste wine?
Did you know that wine country is also home to organic olive oil producers, sustainable ranches, five-star (and locally grown) cuisine, and an abundance of healing centers? Northern California’s fertile valleys not only boast some of the best wines in the world but also some of the best restaurants and luxury spas.
From high-end spas in Napa and Sonoma to low-key mud baths and natural mineral springs in Calistoga, everyone is sure to find what they are looking for in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. While some will say that Sonoma is more laid back than the trendier Napa, it really depends on where you’re visiting. Napa may be a bit more expensive for a tasting (in Sonoma it is often free), but Napa is also home to the funky, low-key historic town of Calistoga, which is everything but hoity-toity. So, schedule a visit to wine country, but be sure to include a little of everything the wine country has to offer.
Sonoma, Glen Ellen, Kenwood
To counteract some of the wine drinking you’ll be enjoying, visit Studio M in Sonoma for an innovative and challenging workout. Owner and master trainer, Madeline Black offers private and small group classes in Pilates and Gyrotonic (a unique exercise system that incorporates movement principles from yoga, dance, swimming, and gymnastics using a specific set of equipment). For a yoga workout, visit Yoga Community, located on Fifth Street. The studio, where the motto is “Gather, Share, Grow,” features two yoga rooms and more than twenty classes per week. Their teachers offer Anusara, Iyengar, and Yin yoga classes for beginners to advanced students; owner Carol Tomlinson hopes to expand their offerings and include pranayama and Ayurvedic treatments sometime this fall.
If you prefer to be outside, book a horseback ride with Triple Creek Horse Outfit, which offers riders three different locations to enjoy the wine country setting. Nestled amongst the eucalyptus trees in Jack London State Park, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the historic sites built by London. In Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, you’ll feel far from civilization as you tour the redwood and Douglas fir forests. One to three-hour rides are available (depending on the location). Contact Studio M, (707) 938-5593, www.studiompilates.com; Yoga Community, (707) 935-8600, www.yogacommunity.net; Triple Creek Horse Outfit, (707) 933-1600, www.triplecreekhorseoutfit.com
For an innovative Sunday brunch, visit The Girl and the Fig located on the northwest corner of the Historic Sonoma Plaza. Their unique specials, like their omelet with applewood smoked bacon, tomato confit, and white cheddar are sure to please as are their mainstays like the Brioche French Toast served with grand marnier and huckleberry compote, both worth every caloric bite. Be sure to order the Balsamic Bloody Mary, a delicious, vegetable blend with a spicy kick. Sondra Bernstein, the proprietor of The Girl and the Fig and The Fig Caf© and Wine Bar in Glen Ellen, infuses both locations with a whimsical d©cor; the fig-inspired menu as well as local “fig artist” Julie Higgin’s delightful paintings will give you a whole new appreciation of figs. Contact (707) 938-3684 or visit www.thegirlandthefig.com
Best Wine Therapy Treatment
Located just north of Sonoma and hidden amongst the lush vineyards of the valley, the Kenwood Inn & Spa is a true wine-country gem. Far enough away from the busyness of the community, yet close enough to taste the delicious fruits of the valley, the Mediterranean-style inn is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. Book one of their Tuscany Suites, featuring a living room, fireplace, Jacuzzi tub for two, and unmatched views of the lush gardens and vineyards beyond. The spa, the only Caudalie Spa in the U.S., features authentic vinotherapie treatments from the French pioneers of vinotherapie. Grapeseed-based therapies rich in polyphenols are beauty powerhouses, treating wrinkles and other signs of aging. The Vintage Package includes a Honey and Wine Wrap, a delicious hot application of wine yeast, honey, and organic essential oils; a fifty-minute Sauvignon Massage, using grapeseed oil from the Sauvignon grape; and the Caudalie Grand Facial. Contact (800) 353-6966 or visit www.kenwoodinn.com
Best Garden Spa
The MacArthur Place, housed in one of the oldest Victorian homes in the Sonoma area, plays homage to yesteryear with its Saddles steakhouse and elegantly appointed rooms. But the real magic exists in the gardens, where you’ll find the Garden Spa. The spa, which offers a variety of herb, fruit, flower, or earth-based treatments, features seven treatment rooms and two outdoor Japanese tea houses (available when the weather permits). Before your afternoon Clary Sage Massage, visit the gardens where you’ll find meandering paths, an orchard of fruit trees, and an amazing sculpture collection (including a life-size chess board). Contact (800) 722-1866 or visit www.macarthurplace.com
Best Culinary Delights
Deuce, located just a short walk from the plaza, offers American bistro cuisine in a contemporary setting. Enjoy the summery open-faced ravioli with garden vegetables and sun-dried tomato essence for dinner and the Sonoma berries served with warm zabaglione for dessert. For an ethnic flair, book a reservation at LaSalette Restaurant where Portuguese seafood dishes are the specialty. Try the Mozambique prawns pan-roasted in Piri-Piri with coconut rice and tomato-peanut sauce. To take a turn at the stove, book a stay (or a class) at Ramekins Bed & Breakfast and Culinary School. Cooking classes are offered up to five days per week and include such interesting options as The Perfect Pair: Ros© Wine and Summer Food, Tamales Nuevos, and Sushi-making workshops. Discounted classes are offered with a room reservation. Contact Deuce, (707) 933-3823, www.dine-at-deuce.com; LaSalette Restaurant, (707) 996-6409, www.lasalette-restaurant.com; Ramekins, (707) 933-0450 (school), (707) 933-0452 (B&B), www.ramekins.com
Best Bathing Ritual
After your last cool shower of the bathing ritual, you’ll feel as if you’ve been reborn, and that’s the objective of visiting the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. The pink stucco property, a Sonoma icon, received a recent major renovation, and nearly one-third of the hotel’s rooms were redone. The suites sporting fireplaces, and marble and limestone bathrooms with tubs for two are indulgent, but not as sinful as the treatments at the spa. The spa is one of the few U.S. spas in the country to use their own source of thermal mineral water, found 1,100 feet below the inn. The bathing ritual, which includes an exfoliating shower, a warm mineral bath soak (tepiderium) followed by a hot mineral bath soak (caldarium), cool shower, herbal steam, sauna, and another cool shower is the perfect prelude to the Sonoma Lavender Kur treatment. The treatment, which uses local lavender, includes a lavender bubble bath, a botanical body wrap, and a Swedish massage with lavender-infused essential oil. Contact (707) 938-9000 or visit www.fairmont.com
Most Locally Inspired Treatments
After you’ve settled into your luxurious cottage at The Lodge at Sonoma, featuring views of the Sonoma vineyards, head to the Renaissance Spa for a true taste of wine country. The spa offers such locally inspired treatments as the Olive Oil Body Ritual. Your treatment begins with a vetivert-, cedarwood-, and sandlewood-infused olive oil, brown sugar, and sea salt scrub. The scrub is followed by a nurturing olive oil massage infused with aloe. If olives aren’t your thing, stick with their wine-based treatments. Their Encapsulated Wrapsody package starts with a red wine grape seed body scrub; afterward you’ll be slathered in a grape seed and rosehip mud and wrapped into a cocoon. While nestled in your little thermal capsule, the vitamin E and C-rich ingredients will penetrate your skin. Grape seeds and rosehips are rich in antioxidants, fighting free-radicals that cause aging. Finally, as if this wasn’t enough, you’ll be rinsed off in a Vichy shower and then slathered in grapeseed oil during your Swedish massage. Contact (707) 935-6600 or visit www.thelodgeatsonoma.com
Best Local Experiences
If you’re looking for a unique gift for those unfortunate souls who couldn’t join you in wine country, visit the Sonoma Plaza and head to these unique shops. Pick up some olive oil scrub at The Sonoma Valley Soap Co. or try their unique lotions and creams made with extra virgin olive oil or beeswax. While you’re in the plaza be sure to visit Mission San Francisco Solano, one of the twenty-one Franciscan missions of California. Founded in 1823, the mission consists of the original wooden structure as well as the barracks (built in 1836) and the adobe church (build in 1840). Weddings are still held in the beautiful church; the Mission and barracks are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact Sonoma Valley Soap Co., (707) 933-1430, www.sonomavalleysoap.com.
Carneros, Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Calistoga
Best Culinary Excursions
Nestled along the banks of the Napa River in downtown Napa, Copia is a cultural center, museum, and food and wine haven for both visitors and tourists alike. During a recent visit, Copia played host to wineries of the Napa Valley, where my husband and I were treated to the best fruits of the valley. The center hosts weekend festivals; houses the fine dining venue, Julia’s Kitchen (a homage to Julia Child); and is open daily (except Tuesday) for culinary art exhibits and a variety of food and wine tastings. Further north in St. Helena, you’ll find the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus. The beautiful stone building, overlooking the colorful Napa valley vineyards, is home to the culinary school, which also offers cooking demos to the public. Set just above the valley, the solar-powered, 650-acre Long Meadow Ranch produces some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the valley, as well as two organic olive oils loved by America’s top chefs, grass-fed beef, and heirloom fruits and vegetables. If you’re unable to visit the ranch, most of their products are available online. Contact Copia, (707) 259-1600, www.copia.org; CIA-Greystone, (707) 967-1010, www.ciachef.edu/greystone; Long Meadow Ranch, (707) 963-4555, www.longmeadowranch.com
Best Place to Escape from it All
Napa Valley’s newest luxury resort, Calistoga Ranch located just up the road from its sister property, Auberge du Soleil, provides a secluded haven for those seeking wilderness and luxury all rolled into one. Their “suites” are more like lavish flats, with luxurious indoor and outdoor living areas, an outdoor shower, and a beautiful cedar deck from which to breathe in the fresh air. The Bathhouse offers local Calistoga specialties like the Calistoga Ranch Mud Wrap, an extravagant combination that includes eucalyptus mud to detox and a bay laurel massage to boost immunity and relieve aches and pains. The spa also boasts its own thermal mineral water soaking pool for relaxing and taking in the lush, wooded landscape. Private two-bedroom owner lodges are also available for those who wish to make the Ranch a true home away from home. Contact (707) 254-2820 or visit www.calistogaranch.com
Best Spa & Golf Getaway
Golfers will be delighted by both the courses and the post-golf treatments at Silverado Resort. The never-ending 1,200 acre property features private cottages that overlook either the gardens, the Southern plantation-style mansion, or (for the real golf fanatic) one of the two 18-hole Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed courses. After a round, visit the Roman-style spa for some serious relaxation. The spa offers both Western therapies (like the Golfer’s massage, which utilizes deep tissue techniques) and Eastern therapies. For something different, try the healing Tui-Na massage, a Chinese therapy that incorporates vigorous massage techniques, acupuncture, and stretching to move Qi (your vital energy). Replenish at the newly opened Grill at Silverado, which offers a unique Asian-inspired twist on traditional Wine Country fare. Contact (707) 257-2867 or visit www.silveradoresort.com
In the southern part of the Napa Valley, you’ll find cooler weather and less crowded (although still popular) tasting rooms. Before going wine tasting, have brunch at the Boon Fly Cafe located down the hill from the Carneros Inn. The brunch menu includes the popular Boon Fly donuts and a cuppa joe as well as heavier breakfast entrees like the Boon Fly flambe breakfast pizza with two baked eggs, bacon, caramelized onions, and fromage blanc. There are so many fabulous, world-renowned restaurants in the Napa Valley that it is almost as difficult deciding where to dine as it is to taste. The French Laundry, a Yountville icon owned by celebrated chef Thomas Keller, promises to delight, especially after your two-month wait for a table. (Yes, call way ahead.) Keller, who has frequently been named the top chef in America, makes use of local purveyors for everything from cheese and figs to snails. Try the vegetable menu, which features Red Wine Poached Sierra Bounty Apples, with a “fondue” of Belgian endive, red beet essence, and “Huille de Noix”. Always exploring new tastes and combinations, a meal at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry is one you’ll never forget. Contact Boon Fly Cafe, (707) 299-4900, www.thecarnerosinn.com; The French Laundry, (707) 944-2380, www.frenchlaundry.com; Pilar, (707) 252-4474, www.pilarnapa.com
Located in quiet Carneros, the southern point of the Napa Valley, is the modern Carneros Inn. As you drive up to the hilltop entry, you’ll get a glimpse as to why the owners chose this location for their property. The vineyard views and rolling hills are enough to make anyone sigh in relief as if they’ve finally arrived at their own personal oasis. The suites are actually little row houses with corrugated tin roofs and shady front porches that offer Adirondack chairs, making the area seem more like a quaint neighborhood than a lavish hotel. Inside you’ll find hardwood floors with radiant heat, deep, brown leather armchairs, and a bathroom you could spend an afternoon in (alternating from the deep soaking tub and the indoor and outdoor shower, which pummels you with a pizza pie-sized showerhead). After settling in to your room, head to the spa for the Royal Thai Massage or to the hot tub for two, which offers perhaps the best views in all of Napa Valley. Contact (707) 299-4900 or visit www.thecarnerosinn.com
Best Couples Treatment
Frequently named the most romantic retreat in the Napa Valley, it should come as no surprise that the most sensual spa treatment can also be found at Auberge Du Soleil’s Spa Du Soleil in Rutherford. Spend the afternoon in the Melisse Suite, where you’ll relax next to a warm fireplace while gazing at the wineries dotting the landscape below. The Auberge massage, which utilizes firm massage techniques, lulled me to a state of blissful relaxation. Afterward, refresh with a glass of sparkling wine and a cheese and fruit platter from their chef. Soak in your private hot pool, located on the deck outside, breathe in the fresh air, and revel in the solitude. Contact (866) 228-2490 or visit www.aubergedusoleil.com
Organic and Sustainable Vineyards
The sustainable wine business is slowly blossoming into a worldwide trend. In the Napa and Sonoma valley’s you’ll find several winemakers that are proving you can produce environmentally friendly wines with great flavor. To help you navigate the natural vineyards here are a few essential terms to know:
• Organically grown wines are made without the use of synthetic or chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers but may contain sulfites.
• Organic wines must be grown and produced organically and no sulfites can be added during processing.
• Biodynamically grown wines are produced with a special emphasis placed on the soil. Biodynamic agriculture employs such practices as using homeopathic sprays and harvesting according to the moon and planetary cycles; wines are produced in a holistic fashion. While most biodynamic wines are organic, there are some that use sulfites.
California Wine Country Organically Grown:
Bonterra, Ukiah, www.bonterra.com, (415) 444-7410
Fetzer, Hopland, www.fetzer.com
Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, www.frogsleap.com, (800) 959-4704
Robert Sinskey, Napa, www.robertsinskey.com, (800) 869-2030
Staglin Family, Rutherford, www.staglinfamily.com, (707) 944-0477
Yorkville Cellars, Mendocino, www.yorkville-cellars.com, (707) 894-9177
Coturri, Glen Ellen, www.coturriwinery.com, (866) 268-8774
La Rocca, Forest Ranch, www.larocca.com, (530) 899-9463
Frey, Redwood Valley, www.freywine.com, (707) 485-5177