January 22, 2008

Wine Country Inn, St. Helena, California

Nestled between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail in St Helena lies a little gem I've come to know and love over the years aptly named the Wine Country Inn. When I think about time spent in Wine Country I think about peaceful, cozy, romantic settings, and the Inn does a fantastic job of providing just that and then some. We have a yearly tradition of staying here for 3 or 4 nights and have never left unsatisfied. Staying here seems like a trip into a different time and place... One a little simpler, full of antiques, handmade quilts and great hospitality as well as central A/C and a Bose stereo system. The feel and d├ęcor is definitely country and walks the fine line between old school/ new school, so if you're looking for ultra-modern, plasma TV's flush in the bathroom mirror, this is not the place for you. In fact, there are no TV's at all, which I think is awesome.

The Inn was founded by Ned and Marge Smith in the early 70's after they had spent time at some of the classic inns of the east coast and discovered what they wanted to build here in California: a place with comfort, charm, and an idyllic setting while including the modern luxuries of plumbing and electricity. The result? A place that manages to seamlessly mix old world charm with modern touches at an affordable price in a picturesque location. The whole family has done an outstanding job while making continuous upgrades each year, such as wireless internet and cosmetic fixes in various rooms. Ned and Marge don't run the inn anymore, they've left that up to their son Jim, who's hoping his children will follow the family tradition in a few years.

After a prompt check in, walking down the cobblestone path and stairs my better half could barely contain herself. And once the door opened to the "Vintners" cottage she was literally jumping up and down with joy. With a total of 20 rooms, 4 suites, and 5 luxury cottages, the rates run anywhere from $300 - 650 a night at the top end. We haven't stayed in any of the smaller rooms, but I'm pretty sure the cottages are your best bet and worth the extra $200 or so a night. They're large and attractive with hardwood floors, a sitting area with fireplace, couch, and insanely comfortable king-sized bed. The bathroom alone is almost worth the price, with tiled floors, a huge walk in shower large enough to fit 4 people comfortably (if you're into that sort of thing), and an immaculate jacuzzi tub along with his/ hers sinks and mirrors. The stereo has speakers in every room so if you feel like putting on your favorite CD and slipping into a bubble bath with your loved on and a bottle of wine all while controlling the volume via remote, no problem. Some people would argue that the
money saved from expensive lodging can be put towards more wine, which is a really good point that I've gone back and forth on, but for me sometimes going up there and staying in a great spot is part of what makes the trip so good. Each cottage has it's own private patio with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, and a vineyard just steps away. Complete with a heating lamp, wrought iron table and lounge chairs, this was our favorite spot for coffee and afternoon relaxation after tasting wines all day.

If you're lucky, you might get a visit from Bob the cat, who is one of the reasons we love to stay here. Bob is part Manx, incredibly soft, and was adopted by the Inn. I think he was the pet of a nearby winery but now he patrols the grounds at night hunting mice and other vineyard rodents, and also likes to greet and stay with visitors, preferably in one of the cottages. I was never a huge cat lover but we both love Bob, and let him snooze on the couch if he wants to. He's incredibly friendly and will fall asleep purring in your lap if you let him.

Breakfast is included, too, and it's quite good. Served buffet style, there's everything from bagels with assorted meats and cheeses to homemade quiche and a wafflemaker. The waffles are my favorite part, deliciously soft with a hint of cinnamon and spice. Mmmm. So good. In the afternoons, staff from local wineries come by for a complimentary tasting, which can be fun if you're not too tired from visiting wineries throughout the day. We usually just go back to the room, pop one of the bottles we bought throughout the day and sit back on the patio watching the sun fall behind the mountains. There's also a complimentary shuttle to and from restaurants which is a godsend since at these long dinners there's usually a few bottles that get put down. Last time we were there the driver and all the staff was amazing, incredibly sincere, and helpful. They really bend over backwards to make sure you enjoy your stay. I can't really think of any negative things to say about the place except it could use some periodic updates, such as the stereo. It would have been nice to plonk the Ipod down instead of having to bring CD's. Aside from those minor nit-picky things, this is a place we will be staying at for many years to come. By the way, the innkeepers brother makes a Cabernet by the name of Hourglass with Bob Foley, so, they sure do know a thing or two about wine and are happy to suggest places for you to visit if you're unfamiliar with the area...

Highly Recommended

What: Wine Country Inn

Where: St Helena, California

Price: $200-650

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%. We love this place! Nice review.