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The Ultimate Romantic Experience
Exclusive guest rooms perched atop wooded hills, a two-Michelin star restaurant, pristine nature, a magnificent spa, and all of Napa Valley’s wineries at hand, Meadowood is an exquisite getaway for lovers and aficionados of splendid wines, sports and nature
By Simone Zarmati Diament
As a professional traveler who likes to explore the true character of a destination in its small inns and boutique hotels, if anyone had told me that I would enjoy a Resort and Spa and that my husband would too, I would have laughed at the thought as ludicrous. Especially in Napa Valley. Give us wineries, hikes in vineyards and hills, marvelous wine bars and restaurants in quaint towns… in short the inner soul of one of the most beautiful wine growing regions in the US; but a spa? A resort?
Until we arrived to Meadowood, attracted mainly by the recently obtained Two Michelin Stars at the Resort’s restaurant and its Relais and Chateaux rating. We were driving on Silverado Trail, trying not to miss the entrance to Meadowood – one gets easily distracted reading the name signs of well known wineries on each side of the road and by the beauty of hills, vineyards, with the sun playing in the leaves and coloring them with a rich palette of nuances at different times of day – when we happened on the unassuming sign indicating the entrance.
From then on, all the pre-conceptions I ever had vanished.
An Exquisite Getaway
A unique combination of hotel, spa and a resort, Meadowood charmingly nestles in a beautiful, two hundred-fifty acre bowl-shaped valley in the heart of Napa between Silverado Trail and Howell Mountain Road and the Mayacamas range in the background.
Whichever way you look, you are surrounded by an exquisite display of nature and architecture, from the stunning lush woods where the Wappo tribe used to live, to the trails leading you the championship croquet lawns, seven tennis courts, a nine-hole walking golf course, hiking trails, a swimming pool steaming at 80ºF during a cold December, a full-service health spa, and eighty-five guest rooms, suites and cottages. These appear, dreamlike in the natural beauty of the place, as one walks or drives from the reception cottage to the guest rooms or through the experimental vineyard and organic orchard to the entrance.
That is if you ever want to leave your room. Guest rooms are individual cottages, each totally independent from the other, all equipped with state-of-the-art amenities and a wrap around terrace overlooking the woods. Ours was accessible through steep stairs, but once we got in, we were in a world of our own.
A roaring fire in the deep fireplace, comfortable couches and armchairs to nap in with quilts and overthrows to keep you warm, and the view make it the ultimate romantic experience and a challenge to leave.
To me, leaving this perched paradise in the morning was a challenge, even for a spa treatment. Until I stepped out I was convinced I was not going to go through it. I wanted to walk around in the cold, brisk morning, the billowing smoke over the pool was inviting, but I hadn’t brought my bathing suit, so on I walked into the Spa with thoughts of invoking a cold or a headache. But people at the reception were so friendly that I went in. And a world of tranquility, sensuous beauty and peace opened up. The lengthy spa menu for men and women includes seven or eight different types of massages, naming The Valley Stone Massage with basalt stones and the Ayurvedic Shiro Dhara. You can choose from a long list of body treatments, wraps, exfoliation like the Cabernet crush, the Vineyard Polish and the Citrus Salt Glow. In addition to regular facials and skin care there are therapeutic facials and beauty treatments.
Tai Chi classes are held in a meadow, eco-fitness classes have participants use the natural terrain instead of stairmasters. One-on-one sessions of Pilates, yoga, strength training, hiking and other types of exercises and dance routines are all available to guests. Diverse fitness activities are led by a professional staff that includes a tennis professional, golf professional, croquet professional, and cultural affairs director, among others
A Napa Valley Vintners Tradition
(A Napa Valley Vintner's tennis tournament in the late 70's with Robert Mondavi,center)
Founded as a private club in 1964 with an unprecedented vision of what the next four decades might hold Meadowood became the original gathering place for Napa Valley's burgeoning wine growing community. Today, with winemakers dinners and wine education programs by Gilles de Chambure, one of only a handful of Master Sommeliers in North America, the property is an integral part of the cultural and social fabric of the community and continues to be the common ground for the Napa Valley Vintners. When Robert Parker comes to taste new vintages, it is at Meadowood that the wineries set up the mythical tasting that will determine the fate of their sales.
The Restaurant at Meadowood: 2 Michelin Stars in one year
With an elegantly-set 48-seat dining room and a 24-seat terrace overlooking a spectacular view, the Restaurant at Meadowood is the quintessential dining experience. Of course, wine plays a major role and former chef Joseph Humphrey who acquired The Restaurant its second Michelin Star in the same year (2007) made sure that his cuisine would enhance Napa wines.
In the best traditions of Napa Valley freshness and flavor are the focus, with a menu featuring ingredients mostly from surrounding farms and produce grown on site at the Meadowood. Along with duck confit and truffle mascarpone there is Meadowood Garden chard, and the fuyu persimmon carpaccio is blanqueted with locally foraged porcinis, pecans and aged sheep's milk cheese. The Capon with truffles comes from Four Story Hill; the pork from Long Ranch is accompanied with cauliflower, mousseline of celery root and truffle braised celery; the duck is from Liberty Farms and the marinated golden beets and turnips are grown right in the backyard garden. Sonoma Grass Fed lamb is served with baby leeks from Meadowood and crandberry beans. (You can see the menu on www.meadowood.com)
The new star chef is Christopher Kostow who also garnered a second Michelin Star in 2007for his last restaurant, Chez TJ, in Silicone Valley.
If the food is exciting, so is the 50-page wine list with an international selection of 800 wines (from the 11,000-bottle inventory) many from Napa Valley and elsewhere in California, a good selection of half bottles and 26 wines by the glass, all reasonably priced. Together with the exquisite linen, silverware and china, it plays an important part in making Meadowood a world-class destination.
The menu offers prix fixe and a la carte selections along with artisan cheeses and desserts. Diners can choose from a three- ($65), four- ($80) or five-course ($95) menu, a seven-course tasting menu ($120) or several specialty menus, including an all vegetable "Local Garden" ($85). Wine pairings are available for each course but we chose our own wine from the amazing list. To reserve a table for dinner in The Restaurant at Meadowood Monday through Saturday evenings, call 707-967-1205.
While the Restaurant soars, The Grill, on the other hand requires more diligence in the pedestrian fare at breakfast as well as lunch, but it comes in handy when eating poolside or for room service.
Simone Zarmati Diament is editor in chief of www.southfloridagourmet.com and co-host of the radio show Food & Wine Talk WDNA 88.9FM