The Napa Valley, in California, is famous for big and bold wineries, exquisite accommodations, and a food scene that is second to none (well, maybe except maybe the foodie scene in neighboring Sonoma County). Still, the Golden State’s most prestigious winemaking region has some relatively undiscovered hotel gems. Because I live in the area, I know a bunch. And here are my faves.
This 12-room boutique hotel sits just north of Model Bakery in the heart of downtown St. Helena, one of Napa’s most popular tourist destinations. Because it’s a relative newcomer—it opened in July 2011—many visitors (and locals, for that matter) don’t even know it’s there. Inside, however, the experience is one to remember. Rooms are spacious and modern, each characterized by whimsical design features such as mirrored armoires, tufted leather chairs and sitting nooks. With windows and skylights galore, the place is awash in natural light (some rooms even look out on a tiny atrium). All stays also come standard with free WiFi, passes to Health Spa Napa Valley and free on-site parking. There’s even a tasting room, for Materra Wines, adjacent to the lobby on the ground floor.
El Bonita Motel
Also in St. Helena, this 1950s-style motel is known for two things: Location and affordability. Location is prime—it’s just south of Gott’s Roadside, one of the most popular restaurants in town, and practically across the street from Farmstead, a farm-to-table restaurant from the folks at Long Meadow Ranch winery. As for the price, this is about as budget as it gets in these parts, meaning rates are half what you’ll find at some of the places in the next-highest tier. (All prices even include free breakfast!) No, the rooms are nothing exquisite. But if you’re looking for a safe and clean place to crash for the night after a day of wine-tasting, this is a great place to go.
The Wydown Hotel
A full-time butler is the first indication that this property is one of the most luxurious accommodations in all of Napa Valley. The five-unit inn, part of the Cliff Lede winery operation, sits atop the hills above Rutherford on the east side of the Valley, overlooking everything (including soaring hawks) for miles around. Rooms are cavernous; all have outdoor patios and some have outdoor showers and tubs. Spa services are second to none; treatments can be conducted in the on-site spa are or in your room. All stays include complimentary breakfast and afternoon snack. Beyond that, the butler gladly will fetch take-out dinner from any of the local restaurants.
The Cottages of Napa Valley
Eight charming standalone cottages compose this homey getaway off Highway 29 between Napa and Rutherford. All of the units come with a kitchenette, HDTV with Netflix movies, and outdoor and indoor fireplaces; some also have walk-in showers and jetted tubs. Other amenities include complimentary dinner transportation into Yountville every night, a bottle of wine upon arrival, and a breakfast basket (of pastries from Bouchon Bakery) delivered to the front porch each morning. Perhaps the best amenity: cruiser bicycles, available for free upon request. Who wants to worry about mixing driving and wine tasting anyway?
Viewfinder Tip: If possible, visit the Napa Valley mid-week; rates are cheaper and hotels tend to have more vacancies.
Mount View Hotel & Spa
Art Deco design reigns at this family-owned boutique hotel in downtown Calistoga. All 31 of the property’s rooms and suites are decorated in styles from yesteryear; depending on where you stay, the vibe could manifest itself with antique lamps, mirrored tables, geometric wall designs, or crystal chandeliers. Locals and visitors alike rave about the intimate pool and spa, which has an extensive treatment menu. Two other big draws: In-room Illy espresso makers, and Continental breakfast, which is delivered daily to each room. When my wife and I stayed recently, we also loved JoLe, an on-site restaurant that specializes in dishes with organic and locally farmed ingredients.
For what sorts of amenities do you look when you book hotels?