A Week In Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Luxury Vacations: When you think California and wine, you think Napa and Sonoma.

Known for its reputation in the world of wine, this is one of the premier travel destinations in the world. Stunning views of rolling hills dotted with vineyards abound. Every season offers breathtaking sites. From bright yellow mustard in spring, to glorious ripe grape clusters in fall, to stark, majestic bare vines waiting for bud, wineries of every stature grace the landscape.

Whether you are wine tasting, dining at renowned restaurants, pampering yourself with a spa treatment, bicycling, ballooning or relaxing at charming bed & breakfasts, hotels or resorts, the wine country is a vacationer's paradise.

Here are some options for your visit!

Where to Stay:

Hotel Luca
Younteville, Napa Valley, California

Welcome to Yountville, one of the oldest and most charming towns in Napa Valley. But wait, you just might have landed in the vineyards of Italy. The moment you cross the rounded, roman arch that serves as the entry to Hotel Luca, you've got the best of both worlds waiting for you.

The architecture of this 21-room boutique hotel is a modern interpretation of a Tuscan village built with state of the art materials, design, decor and room appointments that spare no expense and showcase the finest quality available in every detail. From heated bathroom floors, to plush, oversized beds, to soft as silk sheets, to cozy robes, to in-room espresso machines, to state of the art electronics, you will feel oh so pampered

The gracious, yet informal welcome in the lounge/library/reception area is punctuated by a splash of Proseco to set the tone of convivial warmth. Whether you choose to hide away in your comfy room, chat with fellow guests in the outdoor living room or enjoy the pool, fitness center and spa, you are enveloped in a sense of place that is more than Napa or Tuscany combined, it is the magic of Hotel Luca.

Nothing could make your stay more pleasant than enjoying Cantinetta Pietro, a Tuscan restaurant that is part of the compound. Breakfast is included with the room and is served in the restaurant. Rather than the standard buffet fare, you choose from menu items that reflect the Italian heritage and you will enjoy the best of local ingredients used in the homemade granola, jams and breakfast pastries. What a start for a day of exploring the wine country!

But don't forget to make dinner reservations at Cantinetta Pietro ( see review under where to eat )to experience some of the best regional Italian dishes right in your own enclave. Plan to stay several nights and you won't think twice about missing Tuscany at Hotel Luca!

The Inn at Southbridge
St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Everyone who visits the wine country wonders what it would be like to live there. One way to find out is to stay at The Inn at Southbridge located in historic St. Helena.

You can park your car or arrange transportation from the airport and use the Inn as your pied a terre. Whatever you can imagine doing is within walking distance of this centrally located abode. (It's a block away from downtown St. Helena.)

Rooms are large, light and airy with simple decor, fireplaces and balconies overlooking courtyard, pool or hillsides. Just steps from your room are restaurants, shops, galleries, wineries, the local farmer's market and the St. Helena Visitor's Center.

The continental breakfast features an array of baked goods from the legendary Model Bakery, just down the street.

Walk out the front door of the Inn and you are facing the entrance of Health Spa Napa Valley, one of the most complete day spa selection in Napa Valley. It is the only full-service spa of its kind accessible to day visitors provides facilities for fitness, classes, swimming and a full array of spa treatments. Guests at the Inn have full use of the facilities except for the treatments which should be booked when you reserve your room because they are so popular.

Try their signature Center Yourself Mud Wrap. For the ultimate spa experience, this all-encompassing body ritual will leave your skin baby soft, your muscles relaxed and your mind calm. A Frankincense and Ginger scrub masque is used to exfoliate dead skin cells away. Amazonian clay high in minerals and antioxidants detoxifies and firms the skin during the body wrap. Your treatment is brought to completion with a full body massage.

Or consider one of their "Wine and Spa Packages" offering the best of both worlds to visitors. What better way to enjoy the area than by combining tasting and relaxing with your accommodations at the Inn directly across the way.

Although restaurants abound, one of the most coveted seats is at Martini House located within easy walking distance,just minutes from your room at the Inn.( See review under "Where To Eat").

Tucked away, yet oh so accessible to the best of St. Helena, The INN at Southbridge will make your wine country experience a memorable journey!

Where to Eat:

Martini House
St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Named after its owner, Martini House, is an historic craftsman style bungalow built in 1923 and embellished by world renowned restaurant designer, Pat Kuleto, with elements to honor its native American and wine country heritage.

Chef / Co-Owner Todd Humphries forged his "Napa Cuisine" based on favorite foods from the wine country, incorporating locally-sourced products to create his unique renditions.

Besides a la carte selections, the Chef Humphries is renowned for his Mushroom Tasting Menu and the Chef's Tasting Menu, both of which change seasonally. These menus highlight the chef's passion and culinary ingenuity.

The wine pairings suggested with each tasting course are surprisingly global, thoughtful selections from the prestigious cellar. Wine director, Rob Renteria, takes great pride in offering a broad spectrum of international wines including wines by the glass from almost every major wine region.

The dining experience, whether outside sur terasse or in the cozy enclaves that make up the atmospheric interior is a celebration of Napa's finest fare through Chef Humphries inspired interpretations.

Cantinetta Pietro
Yountville, Napa Valley, California

If you are longing for a taste of Tuscany while in the Napa Valley, Cantinetta Pietro located at Hotel Luca is the spot.

The reception and waitstaff, headed up by the authentic hospitality of Food and Beverage Manager, Caterina Mirabelli — direct from Italy — will set the tone for a lively, fun filled and delicious dining experience.

Cantinetta Pietro has wonderful options for dining. You can sit at the pizza bar viewing an authentic wood-burning oven and observe the action of the open kitchen. Or you can sit in the comfortable upbeat interior space. Finally you can dine in the courtyard dining area facing the hotel's outdoor living room, fireplace and fountain. Where ever you choose to sit, you will be warmly welcomed, graciously served and well fed.

The home cured salumi selection and the thin crusted, rustically charred pizzas are not to be missed. While the other menu options display Chef d'cuisine Craig DiFonzo's contemporary take on the essence of regional Italian cuisine.

Chef Craig makes virtually everything "in house" using California's bountiful local produce. His dishes are succulent and soul satisfying.

Invite Caterina and her staff to suggest and pair some of the thoughtfully selected Italian and California wines with your dishes for a truly memorable evening.

As with Hotel Luca, Cantinetta Pietro spares no expense in providing its guests with an authentic experience of quality and care, and YOU are the lucky recipients.


Favorite Appetizers:
Pizza Funghi - Seasonal Wild Mushrooms, Melted Onions, Fontina Cheese and ThymeCozze al Forno — Wood Oven Roasted Mussels, Garlic, White Wine, Chili and Parsley

Favorite Entrees: Risotto — Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms, Housemade Pancetta, Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut, Tomatoes,Capers, Pine nuts, Olives, Lemon

Favorite Dessert:
Cannoli — ricotta, candied orange, pistachio, shaved chocolate

Sonoma Valley

Where To Stay:

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
Sonoma, California

As you approach the entrance to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa from Boyes. Blvd. your eyes widen with awe at the sprawling grounds studded with mature oaks and pines and the surrounding Sonoma hills planted with vineyards.

Set unobtrusively in the verdant, lush landscape are mission-style buildings. With a long history related to the hot springs found on the property, major renovation returned the property to its 1920s grandeur, and the Spa, added in 1981, now attracts visitors from around the globe.

Since then, the most recent additions and renovations, include the expansion of the Spa — to 40,000 sq. ft. Now the Spa boasts indoor and outdoor spaces — beautifully appointed and lush landscaping — making this a true European Spa and world-class resort.

True to its Spanish mission design, the interior spaces of the hotel are authentic in the use of materials that create warm, intimate spaces, a sense of place full of history and charm. Rooms in the main building are small but well equipped. The junior suites provide the space you expect from this caliber of property.

The rooms are just the beginning of your experience. Many stay at the resort and return expressly to utilize the world-class resources of the Spa. Think of every imaginable treatment and then some! This spa has it all! A signature feature is "The Bathhouse" with its own concierge who will explain the suggested ritual to follow for maximum benefit from the thermal waters used in all the pools

Before indulging in a spa treatment, plan to join one or several of the classes. If relaxation and renewal is on your list, the "Aqua Yoga Class" will deliver. All of those challenging positions of land yoga are a cinch when done in a mineral pool heated to body temperature and lightly salinated to increase your buoyancy. After 45 minutes you are a budding Buddha — ready to take on the rigors of a golf game, wine tasting and shopping on the Sonoma Square before dinner at the Inn's Michelin-starred restaurant, Sante. (Please see review of Sante under "Where To Eat," which follows).

Madrona Mansion
Healdsburg, Sonoma Valley, California

In today's 24/7 world of never ending connectivity and social networking, where do you go to unplug?

When nothing but the best will do, its the historic Madrona Manor.

Nestled in the hills above the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, the Madrona Manor is an exceptionally lovely Victorian estate surrounded by eight acres of wooded and landscaped grounds. The Mansion, built in 1881, has been a destination for discerning guests seeking a stay in the gracious wine country of Northern California since 1981.Every aspect of the hotel and its grounds speaks to the relentless pursuit of quality, authenticity and a standard of excellence that has garnered this property numerous awards from the most reputable circles.

Each room at the Madrona Manor is uniquely decorated in period with the utmost attention to detail. Luxurious bed and bath linens and amenities are waiting to coddle you.

But before you give in to the luxury, explore the magnificent grounds. Impeccably tended lawns, flowers, fountains, pools, orchards, herb and vegetable gardens,and surrounding vineyards all beckon to you as you swoon and stroll. As night falls, consider dining in the Michelin starred restaurant before retiring..

No worries about that extra sip of wine or port, when your room is a mere staircase away. Awaken to the sounds of nature as you sit on the balcony, while the smells of breakfast tempt you to see what's cooking.

Choose your seat in any of the elegant dining rooms and make your selections from a bountiful buffet sure to start your day on the right foot.

All of this pleasure just one mile from hopping Healdsburg and the endless siren song of the surrounding vineyards just waiting to be savored.

If this isn't enough of an enticement to unplug and get reconnected to earthly delights, stay an extra day!

Where To Eat:

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Sonoma, California

Santé, is the restaurant located in the main building of The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.

When the French use the word "santé" to offer a toast, it means "to your health!" In this case, it also means "to your lucky tastbuds," since you will have one of the most enjoyable dining experiences as well.

As a tribute to all the best and healthiest that Sonoma produces and with an obvious appreciation of the local purveyors, Executive Chef Bruno Tison and Chef de Cuisine Andrew Cain elevate the focal ingredients to a Michelin-starred level.

Every aspect — from the greeting at reception — to the attentive waitstaff, to the wine service, to the presentation of the dishes, to the taste on the palate — is executed at the highest level. Even the bread and butter service offers selections that far exceed the expected, making for a delicious start to your meal.

Each menu item sounds better than the last, so the obvious choice is the Tasting Menu. This gives you the chance to savor several of the Chef's signature dishes without having to choose.

The wine pairings offered impeccable flavor profiles that enhanced the stellar meal.

Sonoma is sensational and Santé, highlights the best of the valley!

By Diane Sukiennik & Michael Reiss
JustLuxe Contributors  

Full Disclosure: Diane Sukiennik and Michael Reiss were guests at some of the mentioned hotels and restaurants mentioned above, but all views expressed are entirely their own.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Hotel Luca's Cantinetta Pietro Restaurant
In Napa and Sonoma luxury accommodations abound.
Relax with a gourmet breakfast!

Diane Sukiennik & Michael Reiss

Diane Sukiennik is an internationally recognized writer, coach, keynote speaker, consultant, educator and licensed therapist. She is the author of The Career Fitness Program: Exercising Your Options, 11th edition, Prentice Hall, the most widely used text in colleges and universities in the subject area. A self-proclaimed 'leisurologist,' she speaks French and Spanish, is an avid world traveler and...(Read More)

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