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…
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.
Written by Constance Dunn
Fine California wine, cuisine and pure natural beauty make for a leisured break from LA
When one lives in a getaway destination like Los Angeles, packed with palm trees, blue ocean and a big-city bustle, deciding on a short getaway can be tough: Where can you go that’s beautiful, but different?
Head north on Highway 101 for about five hours and you’ll have an answer: Carmel Valley. This friendly slice of Monterey County, set amidst the raw pastoral landscape of the Santa Lucia Mountains, is a tucked-away oasis for easy living. Brimming with sumptuous local food and wine, and miles of free-flowing natural scenery, it’s an ideal getaway when the goal is to refresh and revitalize. As you wind into the Valley, laced with roads that curve through rolling golden hills, one of the first things you notice is the light, gentle hues of melon and straw, which drew artists to the area in leagues during the early 20th century. (If you’ve read Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Carmel Valley will be familiar as the place where Mac and the boys headed to hunt frogs for Doc.)
Soft, clean air and the friendliness of locals are other hallmarks of the area. “Carmel Valley Nice” is an apt phrase to describe the welcome ambiance, and maybe it has something to do with the weather. Unlike its foggy neighbors along the Monterey Peninsula, the Valley enjoys over 300 days a year of pure sunshine.
Where to Stay
Find luxe accommodations at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, an award-winning retreat of unstarched refinement spread across 28 acres. The warm sophistication of the place is created by design—pure au courant rustication, with blazing fireplaces, oriental rugs and fresh flowers—and there’s a skillful, inviting staff. Every guestroom has a fireplace and fresh-air balcony or patio, along with niceties like a butler’s pantry stocked with fruit, snacks and wines from Bernardus vineyards. All 73 guestrooms at Bernardus are ideal, so book based on personal taste. Rooms in the garden section offer enhanced quiet among the trees, while those near the spa are centrally located, just a few steps from the pool or treatment rooms. Rooms along the central lawn overlook the manicured croquet and bocce lawn, while accommodations in the vineyard area introduce eloquent views of the mountains, organic rose gardens and grapevines. A new addition to the property, unleashed this August, includes a dozen suites and a pair of two-bedroom villas.
If you’re headed to Carmel Valley for a family reunion or large gathering, consider Holman Ranch. The 400-acre private property spans horse stables, wine and olive vineyards and a faithfully restored 1928 Spanish stone hacienda at its center. A popular wedding destination for its poetic sprawl and epic views, the ranch, which includes 10 cottages built in the 1940s—where Charlie Chaplain, Clark Gable and other Hollywood types lodged when the place was a gentleman’s retreat—and can be rented for overnight group getaways for up to 38 guests. Day or evening events can accommodate up to 350 people.
Where to Dine
Lucia Restaurant is arguably the most elegant restaurant in town. Located at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, the airy, romantic spot features local treats like king salmon, grilled squab and Pacific gold oysters from nearby Morro Bay. Like many restaurants in the area, the menu shifts to make the most of local game seasons, seafood hauls and fruit and vegetable crops, but a staple at Lucia is the foie gras, a specialty of the restaurant’s award-winning chef, Cal Stamenov, whose Duck Burger is a house superstar that’s topped with a meaty slab of the delicacy and served on toasted brioche. (Tip: If the weather’s right, book an outdoor table next to the fireplace.) A former roadhouse for travelers ambling from Monterey to Tassajara—a hot-springs destination to the south—Will’s Fargo is the place to indulge in a 16-ounce Kansas City steak with seasonal sides like oyster mushrooms or white corn with cilantro and lime. The bacon wrapped meatloaf and the surf ‘n’ turf also get rave reviews, and the setting is pure throwback Western, complete with wood-beamed ceilings and a crackling fire.
For a casual bite, head to Baum & Blume. You can sit in the folksy boutique or the kitchen, where siblings Deric, Diane and Deborah churn out European-inspired dishes like grilled lamb chops and oysters burgundy. Expect the soups and salads to be flush with fresh produce— down to the just-picked cherries in the goat cheese salad.
Carmel Valley Village
Wine grape production in Monterey County rivals that of Napa Valley, and its bounty is condensed in Carmel Valley Village, a short stretch of Carmel Valley Boulevard. Considered the main drag, this blink-and-miss-it hub is where you’ll find over 20 tasting rooms, along with friendly galleries, leisured restaurants and eclectic home-and-garden boutiques. Tasting rooms include Holman Ranch, home of award-winning wines like .5 Degrees Brix (a crisp, sweetish Pinot Gris) and a fruit-drenched Pinot Noir, Hunter’s Cuvee. Head next door to Parsonage to sip their flagship Estate Syrah in a room adorned with folksy quilts made by co-owner Mary Ellen Parsons. Love lesser-known varietals? A few doors away you’ll find Chesebro, where selections include an Albarino (a white-grape varietal principally grown in northwest Spain) and a Grenache Rosé, both award winners. Since you’re in Pinot Noir country, a stop at the Jarman tasting patio is never a waste of time; their award-winning 2013 vintage is an earthy mashup of berries and light spice, with a faint overlay of oak from 10 months spent in French oak barrels.
Cowgirl Winery, housed in a redwood barn, is a destination unto itself, complete with rambling chickens and plenty of places to sit and enjoy a glass of Cowgirl White, a crisp blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Talbott Vineyards focuses on just two varietals—Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both of which are sampled in the tasting area that includes a picnic section where guests can bring their own edibles. If wine’s not your thing, stop by Quail & Olive. The brainchild of cardiologist and Mediterranean-diet enthusiast Dr. Brabeck, the shop has a dozen olive oils on tap, all sourced from within a few hours driving distance. Once you taste the premium stuff— whether it’s the antioxidant-packed Doctor’s Blend or oils pressed with blood oranges, jalapeños and even vegan bacon—it’s hard to go back to standard-issue olive oil.
Other Places to Visit
Art lovers can head to Carmel Valley Art Association Gallery, a colorful space filled with juried paintings, sculpture, jewelry and more from local artists. Guys looking to replenish their wardrobes should stop by the Robert Talbott store, stocked with silk ties and patterned dress shirts priced staggeringly below retail. And if wine and clothes weren’t enough, local resident Robb Talbott is about to open a vintage motorcycle museum, Moto Talbott, in the Village. Kids can enjoy romping in the playground or green grass at Carmel Valley Community Park, or at dog-friendly Garland Ranch Regional Park, where hiking paths wind along the scenic Carmel River and austere remains of a 19th-century barn, complete with antique farm equipment. If you plan on a long hike, fill up your backpack with healthy treats at Earthbound Farm Organic. The farm stand, owned by the nation’s largest purveyors of organic produce, has a salad and juice bar, and guests are welcome to roam the gardens or picnic under the pine trees on loaner blankets. For more fresh-air relaxation, visit Refuge. The popular spot consists of fresh-air thermal pools, fire pits and lounging areas in a silent, no-cellphone environment. Guests cycle through a series of cold and warm pools, then recline in robes on Adirondack chairs or indulge in full-body massages. After a few days of exploring the quiet, refined pleasures of Carmel Valley, don’t be surprised to feel more elevated and rested than you’ve been in years. The place has a potent way of casting a spell on the senses, boosted by a timeworn tonic of healthful cuisine, easygoing atmosphere and lungfuls of sweet air.
Written by Michelle Lyn | Photos Courtesy of Casa San Augustin, St. Dom and Michelle Lyn
Nestled on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena de Indias, as it is formally known, is a South American gem that still remains a mystery to many Americans today. Emerging from the shadows of a less than desirable reputation, its home country of Colombia is now safer than ever to visit. The added bonus of a strong U.S. dollar makes this the perfect time to head south and indulge in the beauty of Cartagena.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the city’s historic ports, monuments and extensive fortifications, the best way to get your bearings in Cartagena is a guided tour through an operator like Guianza Express. One of the company’s most affable guides is Walter, who shares the history of the coastal city with visitors to acquaint them with notable sights, like the Cathedral of Cartagena, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, Iglesia de la Trinidad in Getsemaní and La Popa Monastery, situated atop the highest point in Cartagena that affords a sprawling view of the city down below.
The ideal base while exploring Cartagena is Casa San Agustin, a chic boutique hotel located in the heart of the city’s historic center. The swanky property is comprised of 30 rooms and suites—some with private plunge pools—that provide guests with modern, luxurious amenities and a complementary dose of Caribbean design.
Stylishly juxtaposing old and new, Casa San Agustin consists of three Colonial-era white-washed buildings, their architecture reminiscent of the city’s rich history as a 17th-century Spanish stronghold. Original frescoes and centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings in guest rooms complement ironwork beds, chandeliers and sconces specially commissioned by local artists to create a residential feel.
The property’s idyllic location allows you to set out on foot to explore Cartagena’s historic center, a vibrant walled city, complete with cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages and pops of color in every direction.
A delightful way to kick-off your stay in Cartagena is with a rooftop drink at Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. Order a limonada de coco—a national drink akin to a light, refreshing piña colada, but with coconut instead of pineapple—and take in the scenic view of Bocagrande and the Cartagena coastline.
Then, meander through Cartagena’s historic center, following your sense of smell to El Pandequeso, a bakery with lines out the door, where you can indulge in freshly baked, decadent pastries that are often filled with jam and mozzarella.
An exceptional spot for lunch is El Boliche Cebicheria, a tiny ceviche and seafood restaurant owned by a lovely young couple, Oscar Colmenares and Viviana Díaz. Located on one of the most picturesque streets in Cartagena, this is the place for a first-ever ceviche experience. The roasted sea bass with fried coconut rice also leaves such an impression, you might just find yourself imploring Viviana to share the recipe.
While away the afternoon shopping at local favorites St. Dom, a fashion, art and design house; Ábaco Libros y Café, a cozy nook for perusing art and books by the aromatic coffee bar; and Casa Chiqui, popular for home decor. A visit to Las Bóvedas, a vibrant yellow structure originally built as storage vaults for the military, is requisite. Eventually turned into jail cells in the 19th century, the structure is now a popular shopping stop, as the old cells house shops and boutiques with a wide array of Colombian art, jewelry and clothing.
Afternoon treats abound at sites like Gelateria Paradiso, Ciocolatto Pop-Bar and Se Volvió Prisprí. If a sunset cocktail sounds better, head to Café del Mar, a bar atop the historic center’s wall. Endless sea views provide the best spot for a sundowner, if you don’t mind rubbing elbows with other tourists.
A more laid-back option is El Baluarte Tasca-Bar, also atop the wall, but opposite Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. Lounge music and candles set the scene as you relax and cocktail your way through the evening.
The only problem with the dining scene in Cartagena is the abundance of outstanding options. Alma, the restaurant located in Casa San Agustin, is an excellent choice with a warm staff. Handcrafted cocktails served in the courtyard, with live music and a three-course prix fixe menu for $25 USD might very well make it the best deal in town. Sister restaurants María and Restaurante Donjuán are next door to one another, with both offering a contemporary dining experience. The lighter menu is at María, and though Donjuán is naturally heavy on seafood, it also prepares dishes like Oxtail Stew as well.
For a more authentic Colombian experience, head to Candé, a concept that boasts its food is 100-percent Cartagena. Here, dancers weave in and out of tables in the cozy space during a nightly live show. Whether you’re able to spend a long weekend or an extended visit, Cartagena is sure to become a destination that captivates you from morning until night, leaving you wanting more.
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 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
One Lodge Street
Asheville, North Carolina
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
1 CordeValle Club Drive
San Martin, CA 95046
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.
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
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.”