Carneros Inn, Napa & Sonoma

Apr 08, 2011 Avatar Dan Ilves Dan Ilves

It’s been a few years since I last stayed at the Carneros Inn, and I was eager to come back and visit the changes. The Inn has been popular with a number of our guests, and I love the location, tucked away on Highway 12 that connects Napa and Sonoma on the southern end of both valleys, making it a convenient launching point for visiting Sonoma and Napa. (Carneros has a number of great wineries, too, well known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as sparkling wines.) A bonus for art enthusiasts is it’s proximity to the DiRosa Preserve, an incredible treasure trove of Bay Area contemporary art, about a mile away.

The Carneros Inn is owned by Plumpjack, and lives up the company’s philosophy of being different. As noted in its materials, “management… passionately believes that business can be fun, and demands an exceptional experience for each customer.” That rang true for the three nights I stayed here.

The Carneros Inn is a hybrid resort of sorts, comprised of 87 stand-alone cottages and a small grouping of homes (a number of which are in the rental pool). The new cottages reflect the barns and camps of the region, and are decorated with photographs that speaks to the history of the area. The cottages are built around pleasantly landscaped courtyards. Each has a fireplace, flat screen TVs with DVD and ipod hook-up, spacious twin-sink bathrooms with heated floors (to die for), twin sinks, indoor/outdoor shower and stand-alone bath, ceiling fans as well as geothermal heating and cooling and Italian linens on the comfortable beds.

All units include rocking chairs on the front porch, while suites (two-bedroom units) include spacious private wood deck patios, with outdoor heaters. In addition to these units, there is also The Orchard, grand two-bedroom cottage units, fractionally ownership, a few of which are available for rent ($1,200 or so per night). The Orchard units include enclosed patio, two outdoor patios, living room and kitchen, and hot tub.

The dining experience has improved since my last visit when only The Hilltop restaurant and bar was open (and now offers only breakfast and lunch), and the quaint but noteworthy boon Fly Cafe, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Boon Fly, named after a prioneer who planted orchards and vineyards here in the mid-1800′s, offers a varied menu at reasonable prices. Now added is The Farm restaurant, an upscale venue offering gourmet dining sourced with ingredients within a 150 mile radius of Carneros, and a fabulous indoor and outdoor bar area (along with two bocce ball courts). Nearby is The Market, offering deli style items, cheeses and baguettes, and espresso drinks and fabulous croissants in the morning.

The Carneros Inn offers a full spa, with a variety of treatments, and features Red Flower Italian Blood Orange products that are also found in the in-room amenities. There are two infinity pools on property, plus a children’s pool, complete with kids-size Adirondack chairs.

The Inn usually features a complimentary wine tasting between 5-7, and during our three night visit, we also enjoyed a champagne and popcorn tasting, as well as a silent-art auction. I definitely recommend utilizing the services of the concierge to arrange winery visits or whatever. They’re well connected locally and respected.

As for wineries, of course there’s no lack of interesting ones to visit. I’ve visited many in the area, and would suggest a visit to Artesa for it’s stunning architectural statement, its views, its tour (it’s a good place to take one), and its wines, as well as Ceja, a small boutique winery owned and operated by a Hispanic family, with some exceptional wines. In Sonoma we were quite impressed with Imagery, a new favorite to add to our list. If you’re a Doobie Brothers fan, don’t miss BR Cohn vineyards, and if you do, be sure to try some of their Piccholine olive oil, and 25-year old aged Balsamic!