A stay at the luxury Auberge du Soleil makes for a perfect Wine Country retreat
“You have to have lunch on the terrace at Auberge du Soleil,” said a friend who had just returned from Napa Valley Wine Country. “The food and the views are incredible.”
So when visiting Napa a couple of years ago, we stopped in for lunch after making reservations on Open Table. My friend hadn’t exaggerated. As we soaked in the expansive views of the vineyards and valley from the top of Rutherford Hill, the setting was as memorable as the wonderful meal.
More recently, we were invited to stay at Auberge du Soleil overnight while attending Flavor! Napa Valley, the annual wine and food festival held to benefit students at the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). We only regret not having made plans to stay longer.
Auberge du Soleil is located just off the Silverado Trail within the tiny hamlet of Rutherford (with a population of fewer than 200 people). The 33-acre resort is about six miles southwest of the charming town of St. Helena (that houses the CIA) located in the Rutherford AVA (American Viticultural Area) known for its Cabernet Sauvignon.
The resort is comprised of individual cottages (called maisons) nestled amidst trees and olive groves. Separate buildings house the reception area with two restaurants (formal and casual) and the 7000-square-foot spa. An 8000-square-foot lounge and pool area with terraced sundecks also graces the property. There are 29 maison rooms, 19 maison suites with separate dining and living areas, and two large 2-bedroom maisons with private fitness studios. Being on the grounds of this Relais & Chateaux property is reminiscent of a stay in the south of France.
In partnership with Ma(i)sonry (in Yountville) and I. Wolk Gallery (in St. Helena), some 85 sculptures are on display outdoors, many available for purchase. Guests can take a self-guided tour through the Sculpture Gardens (using a map provided at the reception desk) or take an art walk by appointment with a curator. (See our Slideshow below with some of the sculptures on display.)
After a welcome glass of wine at the reception area, a bellman escorted us to Maison Calais 4, a quadriplex situated on a hillside not far from the pool area. Until a guest settles in at Auberge and understands the layout of the sprawling resort, it’s unlikely they would find their unit or any other on their own.
The feel of the room: Think understated country elegance laced with a heavy dose of romance and sophistication. Our room had a private balcony overlooking the valley; and was filled with original art, custom furniture crafted in warm golden oak toned woods, and an inviting bed topped with Italian linens with a down blanket and duvet. Turning on the cozy gas fireplace in the corner removed the rainy day chill from the room within minutes.
A certain “Je nais se quoi” about the very tastefully and thoughtfully appointed room made it feel much more homelike and welcoming than other hotels or resorts. Perhaps, it was the bespoke collection of food and art books on the mantle—or the writing desk topped with a fresh orchid, analog clock, stationary, and cup filled with sharpened thick wooden pencils.
The meant-to-be-lived-in bathroom had a separate water closet and flat-screen TV. Wineglasses and candles were within arm’s reach of the freestanding soaking tub. The huge stall shower had both artificial lighting and natural lighting from above during the day.
If you left anything at home, you could depend upon finding it in one of the bathroom vanity drawers—a hairbrush, dental floss, nail polish remover, first aid or “intimacy” kits, or whatever else.
Fit for Foodies
Because we arrived late in the day, we couldn’t bear to leave our maison so soon after. We opted for room service, which we ordered using the iPad menu in our room. It came promptly and the menu offered many of the same dishes we could have ordered from the casual Bistro & Bar in the main building that offers small plates, casual fare and more than 45 different wines by the glass.
With uncharacteristically rainy weather the next morning, we were seated inside the one-star Michelin-rated, more formal Restaurant for breakfast as opposed to eating outdoors on the porch. Room tariffs are fully inclusive of gourmet made-to-order breakfasts for two that can be ordered off the menu or delivered to your room.
My husband opted for brioche French toast with orange butter and passion fruit syrup. I had one of the resort’s signature specialties: a generous portion of thin-crust breakfast pizza with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Both dishes were delectable. Executive Chef Robert Curry’s menus at Auberge blend French and Napa traditions, emphasizing house-made and local ingredients.
A choice of newspapers is delivered to each maison in the morning. In-room fruit bowls are replenished daily and an exceptional complimentary minibar is stocked with artisanal local products as well as a variety of soft drinks, beers, waters and juices. More like a kitchen pantry, the minibar literally has everything from soup to nuts—including two microwavable Annie Chun’s soup bowls complete with chopsticks. There’s also a choice of gourmet chocolates if you get the munchies before turndown. Golf carts and drivers are available to ferry guests from place to place on the grounds if they don’t feel like walking.
To be swathed in comfort, luxury and personal service like this, overnight stays at Auberge begin at $675 per night (double-occupancy), off-season. While expensive, it’s an excellent value and one that won’t make you feel nickel and dimed.
IF YOU GO
180 Rutherford Hill Rd. Rutherford, CA 94573
Some tips for Over-50 Travelers
- Although the property is only 65 miles away from San Francisco, roads in the Napa Valley area can be highly trafficked.
- Some of the upper level units, including the one we stayed in, are accessed by steps. Let the management know if you have mobility problems. The property is handicapped accessible and an elevator is available for guests to go between their rooms and the reception/restaurants areas.
- Children under 16 are not allowed at the pool, spa or tennis courts.
Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Auberge du Soleil but any opinions expressed in this post are our own.
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