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There’s No Off-Season in Wine Country

Locals know the best time to enjoy Napa and Sonoma: after all the tourists are gone. Here, eight places to stay.


The great room at the Estate Yountville’s 3,975-square-foot Villa at the Estate.

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A renovated Carrara marble bathroom at Hotel Villagio.

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The 1886 original exterior of Francis House in Calistoga belies the contemporary luxury within.

Photo: Courtesy of Harmon Guest House

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Redwood slats create a sunshade at Harmon Guest House.

Photo: Courtesy of Harmon Guest House

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Ethereal sculpture brings lightness to the industrial interiors at Harmon.

Photo: Courtesy of Harmon Guest House

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The new Ryokan Zen suites at Gaige House include granite soaking tubs and mini meditation courtyards.

Photo: Trinette x Chris/Gaige House

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The renovated pool at Gaige House.

Photo: Trinette x Chris/Gaige House

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The roof deck at Harmon features firepits.

Photo: Courtesy of Harmon Guest House

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After the crush of fall grapes and summer visitors, wine country winds down for locals—and becomes the perfect place for a winter break. Oenophiles can meet famed and often reclusive vintners, who regularly pop into the tasting rooms to chat. And foodies can find tables at high season’s hard-to-book restaurants. Here’s how to hit the vineyards this holiday season. 

Napa Valley
Forget those bed-and-breakfast clichés of chintz and cookies. Francis House in Calistoga reflects a three-year labor of love by San Francisco interior designer Dina Dwyer and real estate developer Richard Dwyer to restore an 1886 landmark—and add a welcome gloss of contemporary luxury. The five guest rooms (from $495) in the three-story, French Second Empire stone mansion feature Matouk linens and TCL Roku smart TVs, while the gardens host a pool, an infrared sauna, and a salt room. The elegant breakfast highlights local ingredients, with notable Napa vintages served during weekend wine tastings. 1403 Myrtle St., Calistoga, 707-341-3536

The 22-acre Estate Yountville has long been a springboard for exploring nearby Michelin-starred restaurants and viticulture, thanks to Hotel Villagio, recently transformed into a sleek urban inn, and Vintage House, updated in farmhouse-chic style (from $355). Now it offers the luxurious Villa at the Estate, a five-bedroom, 3,975-square-foot residence (from $3,400) with 20-foot ceilings, a pool, a hot tub, and indoor and outdoor dining for 12. Two of the five bedrooms, each with a Carrara marble bathroom, sport a hand-stitched Hästens king bed. The chef’s kitchen includes an Officine Gullo refrigerator and a La Cornue oven; the Villa’s concierge can arrange an onsite chef. 6481 Washington St., Yountville, 800-351-1133

Across from Meritage Resort & Spa, its sister property on Napa’s outskirts, Vista Collina Resort features not only 145 casual-elegant rooms (from $179) with Frette linens and a wine-inspired palette, but also a microcosm of the CIA at Copia culinary compound downtown. The Village boasts nine tasting rooms for wineries and craft breweries and a locally sourced artisanal grocery, stocked with fresh bread from executive chef Vincent Lesage, formerly of Bacara; it will begin offering cooking classes in an exhibition kitchen next year. Guests in the 39 suites with kitchens can prepare Lesage’s recipes using Hestan Cue’s video guide for their Bluetooth-connected pans and induction burners. 850 Bordeaux Way, Napa, 888-965-7090

Sonoma County
Shoppers and oenophiles alike will delight in the location of Harmon Guest House, a block south of Healdsburg Plaza. The 39-room eco-friendly inn (from $225), shaded by reclaimed-redwood slats, debuted this fall as the youngest sibling of Hotel Healdsburg and neighboring h2hotel. Felt rugs and local artwork soften the mod-stark interiors, while firepits warm the rooftop lounge. For greenery, relax in the private park on Foss Creek or ride a loaner bike into forests and vineyards. 227 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-922-5262

Built in 1890 in rustic Glen Ellen, the 23-room Gaige House now offers a taste of Japanese-style serenity as well as the Sonoma variety. Nine Ryokan Zen suites, revamped in May, showcase Asian modernist design with king beds, atriums, fireplaces, rock gardens, and private patios; amenities include Japanese slippers, yukata kimonos, and granite soaking tubs with traditional bathing accessories (rooms from $339; Ryokan Zen suites from $549). All guests may enjoy the new Meditation Deck along Calabazas Creek, plus an inviting pool, a breakfast buffet, wine and cheese, and, upon arrival, jasmine green tea with matcha cookies. 13540 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen, 707-935-0237

Vi La Vita (“live life”), a full-service, 5,000-square-foot day spa, adds to la dolce vita at Vintners Inn in northern Santa Rosa. Part of a $17 million expansion on the 98-acre property, the new spa provides five treatment rooms (including one for couples), an indoor “caldarium” with a warm pool, his and hers steam rooms, and an outdoor pool. The forthcoming fitness center will offer stationary bikes overlooking a soon-to-come labyrinth garden. The 34 new vineyard-view rooms in two-story Mediterranean-inspired villas (from $250) feature private terraces or balconies, fireplaces, and Cal king beds with feather comforters. 4350 Barnes Rd., Santa Rosa, 800-421-2584




Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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