Though harvest season is arguably the most beautiful time to visit the region, California wine country benefits from mild-enough weather and stunning natural scenery year-round. And what could be more romantic than sipping wine with a loved one on a balcony overlooking the same vineyard that the juice came from? Well, hotels and resorts in the area are onto this, and thus it’s dotted with lovely, cozy retreats perfect for an upscale West Coast getaway. Check out our list of the nine best retreats in California wine country, and then make your escape to the land of sunshine and wine.
It's no wonder royalty, A-list celebrities, and athletes keep returning to the luxury Calistoga Ranch: It's in a class all by itself. Guests rent exquisite private lodges, set on a private 157-acre park-like property complete with hiking trails and a top-of-the-line restaurant and spa. Attention to detail carries over from room design to landscape planning -- all modules for the lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The property boasts plenty of activities, including outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, a fabulous fitness center, and wine tasting seminars. If guests decide to venture out for some reason, they can easily access downtown Calistoga and other towns with not only loaner bikes, but loaner Mercedes-Benzes! This property stands out as one of the most remarkable not just in Napa Valley but in the entire country.
This 50-room luxury inn is one of the most exclusive (and expensive) destinations in California wine country. Despite its intimate size, it has all the amenities of a larger resort: a 7,000-square-foot luxury spa, a lovely pool, and a Michelin-star restaurant. Views of the surrounding countryside are phenomenal, the grounds are lush and peaceful, and the homey rooms all come with huge terraces (and, in most, fireplaces and soaking tubs). It's a truly special, romantic retreat, and it's location in Rutherford is convenient for exploring Napa Valley -- but note that there's nothing within walking distance. Also note that children under 16 are not allowed.
Located right on the banks of the Napa River, the Milliken Creek Inn is one of the swankier hotel options in Napa. The luxury inn does have limited amenities (no restaurant, for example), but all 12 rooms are supreme, from the four-poster canopy beds, to the working fireplaces, to the 42-inch plasma TVs, to the stunning views. This is a great pick for a couple looking for romance -- you'll return to your room in the evening to lit tea candles and soft music, and you can opt to have free breakfast served every morning in bed, on your patio, or anywhere on the grounds. There is no fitness center, but guests receive free passes to a high-end wellness center two miles down the road. There is an amazing full-service spa on-site that makes this tranquil, secluded retreat even more relaxing.
Kenwood Inn and Spa is located in Sonoma County, but the hotel and grounds evoke beautiful Tuscany. The European-style property impresses with its lush gardens and courtyards, and exquisite fountains and pools. The 29 private and spacious rooms are individually decorated with romantic Mediterranean-inspired decor, and are furnished with cozy fireplaces, quality Italian linens, oversize showers, and personal balconies (some with stunning vineyard views). Extensive freebies (such as in-room drinks and gourmet snacks), plush robes, and an ultra-luxurious spa help ensure that guests feel pampered. The hotel’s free breakfast has an array of fresh juices, homemade granola and pastries, and special cooked-to-order dishes, while its restaurant serves local cuisine using ingredients from local ranchers, cheese makers, and farmers. All in all, it's one of the best romantic boutique picks in Sonoma Wine Country -- though it's also worth considering Bungalows 313, located in the downtown Sonoma.
In a region known for its intimate inns, this upscale 322-room property stands out for its size and extensive features. Despite the location in an unattractive business park, the resort is still an excellent Wine Country Pick with large, elegant rooms featuring classic decor, plush beds, and modern amenities, plus free bottles of wine. The luxury spa, intimate wine tasting room, beautiful on-site vineyards, and fine-dining restaurant and wine bar make it possible for guests to have a real Wine Country experience without leaving the property. In this price range it's also worth considering the Westin Verasa, Napa (closer to downtown) and the Silverado Resort and Spa (which has its own golf courses).
Swank yet eco-friendly, this 62-room resort opened in 2009 with a mission of sustainability and luxury. Proud of its LEED Platinum certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council for leadership in environmental design, the hotel is solar-powered, sources its water from geothermal wells, and uses organic cleaning products.The modern rooms are plush and the bathrooms are spa-like, complete with a pullout massage table in each one. After a day of biking and vineyard visits, guests can lounge in covered sun beds by the rooftop pool, visit the spa, or enjoy a farm-to-table meal at Lucy Restaurant and Bar. The professional staff can arrange everything from hot air-balloon rides to pedicures on the guest room balconies.
The 13-room, luxury boutique B&B Honor Mansion in Healdsburg may look like little more than a charming Victorian house from the street, but it actually sits on four acres of beautifully landscaped grounds that include tennis courts, a lap pool, a PGA putting green, and so much more. In addition to its luxury resort amenities, the intimate inn is filled with thoughtful extras, such as afternoon wine tastings, coffee at your door each morning, and snacks available all day long. Guestrooms are romantic and cozy, with fireplaces, memory foam mattress toppers, and ornate, tiled bathrooms. And, to top it all off, the hotel is within walking distance of downtown Healdsburg's shops and restaurants, and Napa and Sonoma's wineries -- many of which Honor Mansion's owners have relationships with -- are within easy driving distance.
The luxury Carneros Inn is geared toward high-budget travelers -- it's pricey -- but guests who can afford it will find a sort of homey elegance here. Hillside Adirondack chairs overlook the vineyard. Crackling fireplaces warm every room. Private gardens and tree-lined infinity pools invite guests to relax. The entire resort feels like it's set on a farm, with cottages strewn about that house some of the guest rooms. The rooms are very comfy, with private decks and stone patios surrounded by overgrown greens and a fire pit. They also have outdoor tubs and showers, which is a cool feature. The open bathrooms inside are huge, with walk-in showers and a soaking tub. The property has three restaurants, one of which overlooks the vineyard, a bright and airy yoga studio, a fitness center, a hair salon, and a grocery store called The Market at Town Square.
The Harvest Inn is a great choice if you're daydreaming of a luxury stay in the heart of wine country -- complete with impressive views, Old World rustic charm, and luxe amenities. It may be a bit pricey, but it certainly doesn't skimp on the pampering, offering fireplaces, private terraces, designer furnishings, pools, a spa, and more. Numerous freebies ensure that guests feel cared for rather than nickel-and-dimed, and the location one mile from St. Helena is superb. But the biggest draw just might be the spectacular views, especially from the rooms with terraces.