If “green luxury” sounds like an oxymoron, a stay at the Bardessono Hotel in Yountville, California, dispels that notion. The hotel is a perfect blend of elegance and energy efficiency.
With geothermal heating and solar panels, the ultra-contemporary property, which opened in 2009, uses almost no offsite energy. Remarkably, it is one of only two hotels in the U.S. that has achieved LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It ranks very highly in terms of luxury, too. In 2011, Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice awards ranked Bardessono #17 among the top 200 hotels in the world.
A small hotel with green luxury
Stepping into the hotel lobby, guests are immediately enveloped in luxury: no waiting lines, an abundance of attentiveness, and warm personal service. Katie greeted us with a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet and made check-in painless as we sipped our drinks on a comfortable sofa and handed her a credit card. The more subtle wow-factors and environmental initiatives throughout the property, both in guest rooms and public areas, were yet to be discovered.
As soon as our car pulled in to the driveway, however, we noticed a charging station for visitors with electric or hybrid vehicles. Our rental car was whisked away by the valet (parking is complimentary). Through a partnership with Lexus, guests can also take advantage of free transportation (and a driver) to and from local attractions —or use carbon-fiber bicycles to get around.
A wonderful reason to tour the Napa Valley from a home base in Yountville is that the town is eminently walkable. In fact, three Michelin-starred restaurants (Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro, and Redd) are steps away as is celebrity-chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega. That’s if you want to leave Lucy’s, the recently remodeled farm-to-table restaurant on the premises. More than nine wineries or wine-tasting rooms are also within walking distance.
All 62 units of the hotel are on the ground or second floors, in enclaves divided for privacy among four beautifully landscaped groves, featuring magnolia, cypress, olive or birch trees. As we entered our one- bedroom suite, the green show began.
The design and décor of the rooms are contemporary and tasteful; nothing is cold or stark. Use of natural woods as well as earth-tone fabrics create a relaxed and attractive ambiance. The bathrooms are massive with two sinks, a Jacuzzi, a separate lavatory and an indoor rain shower adjoining an outdoor one on the enclosed, private patio—-large enough to accommodate an in-suite massage table.
Heating and cooling
In hotels, heating and cooling are typically the primary culprits in terms of energy consumption. Engineers planning Bardessono aimed to reduce use of external energy sources (electric, gas, or oil) by half. So an underground geothermal system heats and cools the guest rooms, spa and hot water supply. Some 940 panels, made of a reflective material that reduces heat absorption, are hidden on the hotel’s flat rooftops.
Overhangs on the roofs reduce heat from the summer sun but allow warmth through the property’s glass windows. Even if guests don’t think green, the sensors in their guest room do. When they leave their rooms, air conditioning or heat, depending on the season, is reduced to save energy use and costs.
Sensor-controlled, motorized venetian blinds roll up so natural light streams in from the floor-to-ceiling windows when guests enter their rooms and roll down when they leave to reduce heat from the sun. Throughout the property, energy-efficient bulbs are used when possible, including LED, halogen and fluorescents. The same room sensors that control temperature turn lights on and off to conserve power.
Green luxury doesn’t compromise appearance either. The hotel is constructed with non-toxic, non-allergenic materials. Gorgeous woods, generously used both inside and out, have been milled from salvaged Monterey Cypress trees. The guest room doors are made from the wood of walnut trees that were pulled out by farmers after they no longer produced. Stone taken from the former home of Steve and Pat Bardessono, the couple that previously lived on the site (once a winery), has been sliced into tiles and reused in public spaces. Many of the materials are locally sourced to avoid fuel consumption involved with deliveries.
Natural and organic
The rooms are organic from the linens to the towels, to the cleaning supplies used by housekeepers. To improve indoor air quality, all glues, adhesives, finishes, paints, carpets and fabrics meet low volatile organic compound (VOC) standards. In lieu of small plastic bottles, dispensers are used for organic shower products, thus minimizing plastic waste.
Food and beverages
At the recently renovated Lucy’s Restaurant, ingredients are sourced from local organic or sustainable producers, whenever possible. Chef Victor Scargle has the luxury of his own organic garden right on the property and uses locally-sourced fruits and vegetables from the Hill Family Estate Farm only a few blocks away. Refillable, recycled bottles are used to provide guests with complimentary water in the rooms, flavored with sweet oranges that grow abundantly on the property.
Staying in green luxury makes you feel good. In a token nod to environmental awareness, some hotels and resorts efforts are far more limited. They offer to forgo washing your towels or changing your sheets. But the Bardessono commitment to sustainability and environmental conservation is palpable.
For me, the best measure of a luxury hotel is how I feel on the morning of my departure. Although we visited Bardessono in winter—-could I afford it—-I would have easily stayed at this serene and relaxing setting until the spring to enjoy the heated 75-foot lap pool on the roof.