I had always counted myself lucky not to be bitten by the California bug—happy to call the Midwest my home, and open to visiting the East Coast whenever given the chance. But my most recent trip to
Napa taught me that I had never truly experienced the beauty of northern California, and it was my stay at The Carneros Inn that turned me into a California girl after all.
The Carneros Inn, a PlumpJack Resort, was created to provide an intimate atmosphere that is worthy of its unique surroundings. Nestled among 27 acres of seemingly endless rows of grapevines and unspoiled farmland, The Carneros Inn’s design was based on cues from the local countryside—including barns, silos, and ranchers’ cottages. On the heels of a $6.5 million renovation, these rustic structures have been outfitted with stylish, modern interiors and organized into lovely neighborhoods throughout the property. The Carneros Inn has 86 charming cottages, 10 suites, and several private homes with easy access to downtown Napa and Sonoma, just an hour north of San Francisco. On my recent mid-week stay, the Carneros Inn was at 85 percent of capacity, but the setting is so serene that I felt as if I had the entire inn to myself. (A glass of the most delicious chardonnay given at check-in only enhanced this experience.)
I was tucked away in one of the inn’s sleek cottages, filled with natural sunlight, a luxurious bathroom with a heated slate floor, soaking tub, and bath products made exclusively for guests of the inn, and a private patio with an alfresco shower.
While golf carts are available if you prefer transport around the property, The Carneros Inn is truly walkable and self-contained–there’s no need to ever leave.
Punches of the inn’s signature orange infuse vibrancy into this property, most notably around the family pool near its state-of-the-art fitness center (there’s also an adult only pool with breathtaking views of the countryside’s stunning vistas), or the complimentary bicycles available for scenic rides. But to walk The Carneros Inn is to fall in love with it and appreciate its attention to detail—from the extraordinary vast gardens to the newly opened Arbor, a charming outdoor space lined with crepe myrtle trees, lush floral bushes and a magnificent water feature that looks to host many a wedding. One must also make time to stop at the high-end fashion boutique located on the hilltop, next to the spa, that is curated by the stylish general manager Manda Heath for only guests of The Carneros Inn. Designer brands for both men and women are available, such as Tory Burch, Vince, Trina Turk, and Ted Baker. And not to be missed is a line of winedyed cardigans made from the grapes of the PlumpJack
Winery—a perfect souvenir to mark your unforgettable stay.
As spectacular as the accommodations are at The Carneros Inn, they may be slightly overshadowed by the incredible food. Taking the farm-to-table experience to an entirely new level, executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli oversees the seasonally changing menus in all of the property’s restaurants, ensuring a consistent dining experience in each venue. Meneghelli’s warmth and approachability comes through every dish he serves.
FARM at The Carneros Inn is the property’s signature restaurant offering an elegant wine country experience.
Whether you choose to dine at the living-room styled alfresco lounge or the patio, FARM is refined in presentation and flavors where each dish includes one element from the on-site farm. While elegant, FARM embodies that comfortable California vibe that is not overthought, allowing you to fully relax while enjoying the clean, seasonal flavors. Meneghelli’s use of local produce is truly masterful.
Also on property is the Boon Fly Café, a famous red barn, roadside eatery that features modern rustic cuisine.
Boon Fly Café’s Spicy Bloody Mary, Donuts, and Green Eggs and Ham are must-try items for any visitor. These food items alone are enough to book your stay at the inn.
If you’re looking for a meal-on-the-run, it’s hard to beat the offerings at the MARKET, a boutique complete with an expresso bar, pastries, snacks, sandwiches, and other local products. Soon after my arrival, I ordered their daily special—a wrap with chicken, avocado, jalapeno, aioli, pepper jack cheese, and grilled onions. So good and fresh and served with such joy—I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
As tempting as it is to stay on property at The Carneros Inn, a day-trip or two to the local vineyards is a must. I encourage you to not to overbook your days with multiple vineyard stops—wine is to be enjoyed at your leisure.
If you choose to stay within the PlumpJack family for your vineyard visits, you won’t be disappointed. Our first stop was at the Odette Estate Winery with a guided tour by Winemaker Jeff Owens. Tucked into the dramatic palisades of the Stags Leap District, Odette Estate sits on 45 acres and is committed to producing full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons. Odette’s new tasting room is a stunner—with floor-to-ceiling doors that are swung open most days to allow in the breezes from the vineyard.
It’s hard not be impressed by Odette’s environmental pursuits—including having their offices housed in repurposed ocean freight crates. The 2013 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was among the best we sampled.
Before calling it a day, we checked out Cade Winery, Napa Valley’s first organically farmed, LEED Gold Certified winery. Located atop Napa’s elusive Howell Mountain, the view alone is enough to warrant a stop.
But couple that with a tour by Winemaker Danielle Cyrot and a tasting of the four wines they produce on this estate, this vineyard quickly rises to the top of the list of places to see on your Napa vacation.
The Carneros Inn is located at 4048 Sonoma Highway in Napa, California, 707-299-4900, thecarnerosinn.com.