Getaways

The Beachfront Beyond

Relish the royal treatment at the Four Seasons Punta Mita

Written by Michelle Lyn | Photos Courtesy of Four Seasons Punta Mita

Abrisk, 45-minute drive north of Puerto Vallarta brings you to the lush, exclusive enclave of Punta Mita, a beachfront village that is home to residential communities, private villas and luxury resorts like the Four Seasons and the St. Regis. The gem of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, Punta Mita is an easy getaway, and with average winter temperature of 75 degrees, consider packing your bags for the holidays.

The Four Seasons Punta Mita is fit for a king, with guests given the same royal treatment. Handed fresh mango margaritas upon arrival, a stunning ocean view welcomes you in the lobby. With white-sand beaches in every direction, no wonder the resort is a top destination to visit while the dollar is strong. Reserve an oceanfront casita and take advantage of the empty morning beaches. Go for a stroll on Manzanillas Beach, while room service delivers breakfast to your terrace in advance of your return. Drink coffee to the natural soundtrack of waves crashing, birds chirping and the occasional iguana peeking down from the treetops. Another delicious breakfast option is Ketsi restaurant, where a daily buffet of Mexican classics like machaca or chorizo and eggs is served with an elevated view of the turquoise sea from an open-air thatched palapa.

Yoga is offered daily at the fitness center, but if pampering is more appealing, book the Punta Mita tequila massage at Apuane Spa and let the local spirit cleanse you from the outside in. Afternoons offer something for everyone. A day trip to the Marietas Islands provides a perfect site for snorkeling and exploring the sanctuary of a complex marine ecosystem that includes dolphins, sea turtles and giant manta rays.

Meanwhile, back at the resort, children will delight in options like floating down the Lazy River in inner tubes, making piñatas at the Kids for All Seasons club and building sandcastles at the beach.

Service is incredibly attentive and the moment one heads in the direction of a lounge chair, a Four Seasons staff member is rushing over with towels and cold, bottled water to quench one’s thirst. The beachside menu is everything you would expect it to be in Mexico—fish tacos, cilantro margaritas and the most amazing, gluttonous serving of fresh guacamole one can imagine.

Whether lounging poolside or at the beach, servers come by with something to whet the appetite every hour or so. Perhaps it might be a mango smoothie sprinkled with tajin; a coconut popsicle, or a scoop of cappuccino ice cream…

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all simple, yet thoughtful treats to reinforce a Four Seasons brand built on luxury service. In the evenings, one might find live music in the lobby or jazzy beats from the bar hut on the beach or in a secluded cabana, the perfect locale for retiring with a sunset drink. There’s also Bahia by Richard Sandoval, a restaurant that enjoys a prime spot amongst giant manzanilla trees on Las Cuevas beach and the food is phenomenal.

This fall, Four Seasons Punta Mita will host professional photographers Robert Caplin and Peter Lockley, known for their contributions to leading publications including The New York Times and National Geographic, who will offer guidance during daily photography adventures through Punta Mita’s most scenic natural settings.

They will lead outings to charmed places including the vibrant town of Sayulita, the incredible nature preserves of San Blas, the energetic fish markets of La Cruz, and Punta Mita’s best secret surf spots. “The workshop is created for photography enthusiasts of all skill levels to fuel their passion for finding beauty and magnificence through the lens of their camera, and we are positive they will find that here as they discover the wonders of Punta Mita,” says John O’Sullivan, General Manager Four Seasons Punta Mita.

If photography isn’t of interest, guests can trade in their cameras for mixing spoons and learn historically-inspired indigenous cooking techniques in the Iku Garden outdoor kitchen; try their hand at customizing their own tequila during a hands-on tasting and blending experience; or, depending on the season, learn about sea turtles and help release them back into the ocean—a highlight for the whole family.

The beauty of staying at Four Seasons Punta Mita is that guests never even need to leave the resort. With a myriad of activities, four restaurants on property, multiple bars and areas, the whole family is covered. This fall, two new suites consisting of four and five bedrooms will open, providing the perfect home away from home to sit back and have a drink while enjoying the serenity of the scenery.

 

Estate of Grace

Beaming int he shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore House is the jewel in the Vanderbilt crown

Written by Jenn Thornton | Photos Courtesy of the Biltmore Company
Asheville, North Carolina, has always had its charms, enough to beckon aVanderbilt. When George Vanderbilt, a dandy of his day with bloodlines to industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt, discovered therugged beauty of its rambling outskirts, he purchased 125,000 acres of land and put upon it a grandiose French Renaissance chateau graced with gardens and farmland galore. When the grand-dame opened on Christmas Eve of 1895, she revealed herself a marvel—a symbol of terrific ambition, combined talents and exceedingly deep pockets.

The 250-room manse, which its owner dubbed his “little cabin in the woods,” isa reflection of Vanderbilt bravura—the largest private home in America designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, with grounds by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame. When finished, Biltmore House, with its bachelors’ wing befitting the needs of a proper hunting party, was where George Vanderbilt assumed the role of courtly country gentleman.

As a theater for Vanderbilt and his guests to flit about in all their Gilded Age glory, Biltmore House parades a full array of finery fit for a tycoon, from the glass-roofed Winter Garden to the gleaming oak Billiard Room. As a kind of castle in miniature, the house’s statuesque Banquet Hall soars with a seven-story ceiling that surveys a vast table and Flemish tapestries. The Music Room sings with true rarities; porcelain figurines and candlesticks made for Austrian Habsburg empresses. The elongated Tapestry Gallery displays a priceless portrait by John Singer Sargent, and the library introduces George Vanderbilt as a bibliophile fixed on Dickens. Here, along with nearly half of the master’s mammoth book collection is a fresco of The Chariot of Aurora, by Italian artist Giovanni Pellegrini, originally painted for the Pisani Palace in Venice.



While sumptuous suites and living spaces for the Vanderbilt family and guests swallow the second and third floors, respectively, the basement level is an homage to progress, with all that money could buy, including a colossal 70,000-gallon heated indoor pool with underwater lighting, a gymnasium  with early forerunners to massage showers, and a bowling alley. Also lurking on this level is the artery of house operations—the servants’ domain. Technologically advanced for its era, this Downton Abbey double boasts a warren of spartan yet surprisingly cozy servant quarters that mark a step up in what was typical for those in service at the time. Several kitchens, a pantry with manual and electric dumbwaiters, and an expansive laundry room with adjacent drying room are also here. The dining area is robustly dimensioned, and the service entrance recalls provisions of epic proportions, from steamer trunks to 30-dozen eggs a week.

But it’s the gardens that give Biltmore House her famed flourish. Along with a snarl of outstretched trees buttressing bold blooms are age-old roots festooning columns and spidering up walls. Saunter these glorious, well cultivated grounds and beauty nesting in rich, well-tended earth abounds. The contrast between this lush setting and the imposing stone of Biltmore House makes the scene truly something to behold, particularly each spring,  when more than two miles of pathways avail verdant forests, serene meadows and separate gardens dedicated to roses, shrubs, azaleas and more. As the showpiece, the conservatory cultivates exotic ferns, palms and orchids beneath its arresting glass roof.



Remarkably, given its magnitude, Biltmore House remained without a mistress until 1898, when George Vanderbilt married socialite Edith Stuyvesant Dresser. Admired for her countenance and cultivated ways, it was Edith who agreed to have the house safeguard a number of artistic riches from the National Gallery of Art at the behest of its director David Finley during World War II. (A former guest of Biltmore, Mr. Finley, fearing reports of German submarine activity along the Atlantic Coast, had been impressed with the home’s fireproof features.) But it was Edith and George’s only child, Cornelia, who played perhaps the most significant role in the future of Biltmore House, spearheading its public opening in 1930, en route to earning National Historic Landmark recognition in 1963.

Today, Biltmore House retains her title as a true American treasure.

Spring Flings

Biltmore Blooms

Spring arrives with immense floral displays, featuring nearly 100,000 tulips, celebrating the legacy of the estate’s master horticultural planner Frederick Law Olmsted. Biltmore restaurants will feature special menu items, with the Winery offering wine seminars. March 19-May 26

Flowers to Wear: A Boutonniere & Corsage Bar

The Inn invites guests to watch or participate as a resident Biltmore floral design expert teaches a how-to in creating wearable flower creations. March 26, May 7, June 18

Easter Egg Hunt

The Easter Rabbit makes his annual appearance on Biltmore’s Front Lawn on Easter Sunday. Grand Easter Egg Hunts at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Children ages 2 to 9 attend the hunt for free when accompanied by an estate pass holder or a ticketed adult. March 27

Grape Stomp in Antler Hill Village

Adults and kids alike are invited to take part in this ancient maceration practice, long an important part of winemaking. A grape stomp souvenir commemorating the experience will be provided. Complimentary, no reservation required. Weekends May 14–Sept. 25

Biltmore Estate
One Lodge Street
Asheville, North Carolina
800.411.3812
Biltmore.com

Par Excellence

From links to drinks, scenic Rosewood CordeValle ups its game with luxuries aplenty and golf galore

Written by Jenn Thornton | Photos Courtesy of Rosewood Cordevalle

Nestled in the rolling foothills of northern California’s voluptuous Santa Cruz Mountains, less than an hour from the Monterey Peninsula in San Martin, Rosewood CordeValle offers a memorable intermezzo up north. Enveloped in nature and steeped in conveniences, the rambling luxury resort offers everything from a private spa to restaurants to its very own winery. The showpiece of the place, however, is its championship golf course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that has nabbed a number of honors, including hosting duties for this summer’s 2016 U.S. Women’s Open—a hole in one for CordeValle and all attendees.

But even this coveted nod pales in comparison to the peaceful cradle of CordeValle—something notably eluding neighboring San Jose. Although a world away in tone from the bustling Bay Area behemoth, CordeValle does offer LA weekenders access to one of the city’s premier benefits—San Jose International Airport. But the constant stir of San Jose makes CordeValle all the more calming, with its surging meadowlands, trickling creeks and treeline hillsides underscoring a pleasant and purifying isolation.



Faced with choice accommodations—think 45 elegant rooms in roomy bungalows, generous fairway homes and out-of-the-way villas—selecting where to rest your head isn’t easy, although the resting itself certainly is, with each king-bedded room featuring, among other niceties, goose-down comforters, Frette linens, original art, a fireplace and tons of tech. All options include gorging on beautiful golf-course views. With these perks, staying the course is almost as good as playing it—almost.

Stretching 7,360 yards, the golf course at CordeValle is a bona fide jaw-dropper, boasting 360-degree views in every direction, as clear as the eye can see. Credit the course’s no. 44 ranking on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” to its vaunted golf architect, as well as its immaculate greens and outstretched fairways that glisten amid maturing oak trees and spidery sycamores. But not all is for show; CordeValle’s elite course poses its fair share of challenges, many sure to stymie the field at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, July 4-10. This major endorsement is just one part of the tournament-level golf experience at CordeValle, which also touts  a golf shop bigger than most homes, PGA-member instruction and a professional caddy program.



Although golf is CordeValle’s crown jewel, Sense, A Rosewood Spa, is no slouch, with a Turkish steam room and Vichy shower and enough rubdowns to ease tension wherever it might exist. Along with a pool and fitness center is a network of trails that lead guests to different spots in the surrounding hills, including the occasional chaise, either for a breather or to take in the whole rejuvenating scene, which avails Clos LaChance Winery and an 85-acre vineyard. A tasting and tour here makes for an intoxicating prospect, but no more so than sampling prime vintage at one of CordeValle’s culinary outposts: Il Vigneto for fresh, contemporary American cuisine; Lion’s Peak Grill for casual continental eats and cocktails until sunset; and One Iron Bar for specialty sips and a vast martini menu, plus wines and international spirits.

Whether it’s stay, play or sip, Rosewood CordeValle—and its many indulgences—is calling.


Hit List

Link into the newest golf offerings at Rosewood CordeValle

3-, 6-, AND 9-HOLE LOOPS

By introducing these three new loops, the championship course reinterprets the short game. Includes club rentals and a sleeve of golf balls.
$50, $100 and $150, respectively; 18-hole green fee is $325.

INTRO-TO-GOLF SOCIAL HOUR

At hour-long instructional hour “Sips and Tips,” golfers learn the fundamentals from the resort’s golf pro while relishing signature cocktails and honing their swing on the range. If desired, after the session participants can play the links or opt for a wine tasting at Clos LaChance. Offered Saturdays at noon; $25 per person (minimum of five participants)

“HIS AND HER” EXPERIENCES

CordeValle’s new couple’s golf program offers a 9-hole outing for two. As he completes the back nine, she luxuriates in a 90-minute treatment at Sense Spa. They reconvene for lunch at One Iron Bar, overlooking the course and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Pricing varies.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS CLASSES

Titleist Performance Institute certified trainer Shawna Elliott, a Pebble Beach Resorts and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort alum, leads alternative training classes and creates personalized programs to achieve high-performance golf results. TRX suspension training; guided hikes to CordeValle’s outdoor yoga decks to increase strength, mobility and flexibility; and other training aids are featured. Pricing varies

ROSEWOOD CORDEVALLE
1 CordeValle Club Drive
San Martin, CA 95046
408.695.4500
RosewoodHotels.com

The Good Life: Santa Fe

Desert in Bloom

 

Steeped in culture and class, Santa Fe promises Southwest sojourners a sophisticated weekend away.

By Jenn Thornton

Best Accommodations  Ideally situated mere blocks from Santa Fe’s buzzing central Plaza, the Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Santa Fe, is home away from home with a collection of Southwest-style residences offering hotel services, from an accessible concierge to a fitness center to easy parking. Residences sport generous gourmet kitchens, sizeable master suites with sumptuous beds, kiva fireplaces and bathrooms that could moonlight as spas.

posole_merriam-2Best Cuisine  Perched on the Plaza, all-day eatery Café Pasqual’s packs in patrons for all three mealtimes, but breakfast is most appetizing. Although not on the menu, Chorizo and eggs with green chile sauce is worth requesting. The pancakes, meanwhile, are too delicious to believe. For fast-casual fare, breeze in local favorite Tia Sophia’s for a breakfast burrito that will sustain you all day. Follow the lunch set to The Teahouse for a surprisingly good BLT and freshly made Strawberry Shortcake (one dessert is enough for two), along with about a million different teas. As for the abundant fine dining in town, many guidebooks crown Geronimo as the venue of choice, and while definitely a Santa Fe institution, much like  The Pink Adobe and its legendary Steak Dunigan, local foodies favor  The Compound (skip the wine list, savor the champagne) and The Shed—both James Beard Award winners. When it comes times for cocktails, the swoony La Fonda hotel stirs interest with its atmosphere, but carefree Cowgirl mixes a most delicious Mezcal margarita.

Best Culture  As an arts mecca, Santa Fe sanctions creatives of all stripes. Nowhere is this more apparent than Canyon Road, which paints the town with a half-mile of galleries galore. Of these, top honors go to Morning Star Gallery—a masterfully curated repository of Native American artifacts and turquoise trinkets. For ultra-contemporary works, the Railyard makes the move toward modern. In the astoundingly rich museum category, the undisputed headliner is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe’s high priestess of New Mexico Modernism, while the Palace of the Governors curates a maze of relics in a stunning example of 17th-century adobe architecture. Live performance hits a high note with Santa Fe’s world-renowned opera, which stages La Scala-caliber productions in an equally epic, open-air venue. And, in celebration of the city’s literary tradition, independent bookstores abound, like Collected Works, rife with local literature, and Downtown Subscription, with a sea of periodicals and the best espresso in town.

Best Shopping  The heart of Santa Fe is its bustling central Plaza—and everything, from haute-off-the-catwalk boutiques to custom boots and luxury leather goods, is here. Elsewhere, Double Take takes fine consign to the next level with vintage looks and high-end Western boots. The galleries, eateries and boutiques along Canyon Road can always be counted on for luxury wares, while taking the scenic High Road to Taos—Santa Fe’s rebel cousin just under an hour away—produces a slew of beautifully-rendered, locally-made finds in small interesting shops.

American Pastoral: The Farmhouse Inn, Sonoma

 

The Farmhouse Inn takes down-home upmarket with a full revitalization and a brand-new spa.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Spa Photography Courtesy of Cesar Rubio

Farmhouse General Photography Courtesy of Farmhouse Inn

With deep roots in Sonoma County, the woodsy, award-winning Farmhouse Inn sits on six acres of storybook surrounds. Emerging this spring from an $8 million property-wide expansion and redesign, stewarded by sibling owners Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, in partnership with SB Architects, Myra Hoefer Design and Valley Crest Landscape, the jewel of the Russian River Valley is now absolutely glistening.

A product of its wine-country wilds, Farmhouse’s new look befits the world-class roost with a 15-year reign as one of the finest offerings in the realm of luxury boutique hotels. Doling out farm-to-table hospitality long before there was the term, the Farmhouse’s modern pastoral approach to its overhaul has introduced a slew of new extravagances, including nine top-grade accommodations, a sumptuous spa, verdant gardens and a refreshed pool area.

Pervading all is a sense of casual elegance and warmth. To this end, Catherine Bartolomei says, “Hospitality at Farmhouse is all about making guests into friends, and introducing them to our fabulous wine country lifestyle. Our hope is that they leave feeling connected, relaxed and longing to come back.”  She, of course, never really left; the inheritance that Catherine and brother Joe now oversee has been in their family for more than a century. Thus, at the insistence of its fifth-generation farmers, winery and vineyard owners, Farmhouse emphasizes absolute sincerity—from gracious service to spoils in short order.

And do the “spoils” ever abound. In the culinary category, it starts with a decadent two-course, artisan country breakfast; moves to the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Restaurant, where Executive Chef Steve Litke churns out organic, sustainable, regionally influenced fare; and culminates in a sommelier-led wine and beverage program by estate Wine Director Allyson Gorsuch.

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Beginning its own indulgent run is the Spa at Farmhouse Inn, a “farm-to-table” concept under the direction of internationally regarded spa consultants, Francis & Alexander, and a kind of 21st century homage to the site’s original 19th century barn. Melding simplicity with texture (rich woods, flashes of white, industrial touches), the spa oozes purity, right down to the double barn doors and open-air ceilings. Likewise, treatments, from massages to facials to aromatherapy, offer a similar air of naturalness, furthered by the presence of handmade artisan products and garden-fresh ingredients.

Bridging old and new elsewhere, farm hand housing of an earlier era is now cottage-style guest rooms constructed in historic style. These sophisticated examples of contemporary architecture and easy style offer earthy, unhurried allure. Featured are hand-woven textiles and country-soft trimmings; bathrooms awash in Italian marble gleaming alongside weathered wood; and a sea of glass luring in the lushness beyond.

Coinciding with the refreshed Farmhouse—and celebrating its official grand opening—
is the Spring into Sonoma package, which extends stays with a complimentary third evening. Those on a Monday through Thursday schedule will also receive a $160 spa credit or wine-country picnic with a bottle of wine. (Offer valid through May 31.) FarmhouseInn.com

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Wine Country Curated

Catherine Bartolomei shares her ideal day in Sonoma County.

9 a.m. Espresso at Taylor Maid Coffee, Sebastopol

“A little pick me up before I start my day at the hippest spot in the Russian River Valley is always welcome—The Barlow is Sonoma County’s newest walk-around outdoor market, featuring local wineries, breweries, restaurants, artisans and more. The coffee drinks at Taylor Maid are so good we use their coffee in the restaurant.”

10:30 a.m. Light hike at Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville

“I love to stretch my legs at one of Sonoma County’s most beautiful parks. This old-growth redwood forest is 15 minutes from the Farmhouse Inn and has many hiking trails for trekkers of all levels.”

11:30 a.m. Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Winery, Healdsburg

“This Russian River gem sits on top of a ridge overlooking much of the western edge of the valley. Enjoy winemaker Theresa Heredia’s fantastic chardonnays and pinot noirs while enjoying the views. I always ask for a cheese plate!”

1:00 p.m. Hang out by the Farmhouse pool

“Pool time epitomizes everything I love about going on vacation—sunshine, water, relaxation and indulgence. Ask our team for a poolside menu; you’ll enjoy delectable snacks from our estate chef… and a selection of wines by the glass.”

2:30 p.m. Experience the Spa at Farmhouse

“I can’t pass up a spa any time I travel. I love our new spa, particularly our indoor-outdoor treatments. My new favorite may be the Roll in the Hay—
it’s seasonal, but certainly one to try this spring.”

5:00 p.m. Silver Service pickup at Farmhouse

“A personal car service is oh-so decadent, and I highly recommend it. Our team of concierges has found the best services in the area, and they regularly work with Silver Service. Arrive in style in their Mercedes S-class.”

5:30 p.m. Drinks at Spoonbar in the H2 Hotel, Healdsburg

“This trendy bar is well-known for their tasty cocktails and hip bar scene. I love a good old-fashioned martini, but you’ll find their custom cocktails eye-opening.”

6:30 p.m. Stroll Healdsburg Square, Healdsburg

“Downtown Healdsburg went through a major change about a decade ago—some major sprucing up, the introduction of new restaurants and shops, and a revitalization of the green have all made this a must see on any visit to Sonoma County.”

7:00 p.m. Dinner at SCOPA, Healdsburg

Probably the most popular restaurant among locals and visitors alike, SCOPA is a fantastic Italian eatery right on Healdsburg square. Small and narrow, you get to know your neighbor as you enjoy arrancini and Nona’s chicken (one of my favorite dishes of all time!).”

9:00 p.m. Nightcap at Bergamot Alley, Healdsburg

“This hole-in-the-wall is hard to find, so ask a local. Their list of esoteric wines attracts all kinds of wine industry folks. Enjoy a glass of bubbles while listening to classic records on vinyl.”

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