There’s something about Northern California’s Sonoma County and Napa Valley that keeps us coming back time and time again. With such an embarrassment of natural and agricultural riches in these acclaimed wine regions, it never feels like the same trip twice. You can head to downtown Calistoga or Guerneville for a more bustling summer vacation vibe complete with a hopping main drag, or venture to more remote settings in the hills of Healdsburg where you will feel completely detached. And, of course, you can surround yourself with vineyards in classic wine towns like Carneros or St. Helena.
The landscapes include endless rows of grapevines, soaring redwoods, and oak groves, and the climate can be scorching hot in summer or cool and foggy along the coast throughout the year. Accommodations might entail a small 10-room inn or a sprawling resort retreat. The wine, beer, and culinary experiences are constantly being reimagined with a steady new flock of wineries, breweries, and restaurants opening throughout the region joining the essential standby eateries.
Add to that a recent hotel boom and now there are even more reasons to return to experience Northern California’s iconic wine country anew.
These are the properties that have recently opened, reopened, or are coming to the region by the end of 2021 that have us excited to return yet again.
The new (and renewed) hotels that are open now
- What to Expect: Guests will truly feel detached among the oak groves at this luxurious resort in the heart of wine country.
- Location: Healdsburg
- Book Now: From $1,295, expedia.com
A recent trip to Northern California wine country earlier this summer was more exciting than usual—it was a postvaccination reunion with my two best friends, three moms of very young children taking our first girls’ getaway since before the pandemic. And what better backdrop than the highly anticipated Montage Healdsburg, the first major resort property to come to the idyllic northern Sonoma town of Healdsburg?
After a very stressful 15 months (thank you, COVID), we turned off the main road toward the property and the outside world and all its troubles seemed to instantly fade away. Winding deeper into the 258-acre resort, we were welcomed by the beauty and blissful serenity of its natural surroundings—those endless oak-covered hills.
Montage Healdsburg is just as welcoming to families as it is for couples and friends, with amenities such as a children’s program (for kids 5–12 years of age), larger suites, and a family pool. But for us, it was the perfect adult escape with sophisticated but not too stuffy cuisine, elevated cocktails, an adults-only pool, a top-notch spa, and activities like biking and archery to keep us active enough to justify further relaxation and indulgence.
The accommodations—sleek, modernist rooms and suites quasi-cantilevered above the 22,000 carefully preserved oaks—are a retreat unto themselves, each with a large outdoor deck. At least one in-room meal alfresco with views of the trees and to the backdrop of chirping birds is a must.
Dining at the property’s signature Hazel Hill restaurant is both a relaxed and refined experience, featuring seasonal menu items such as Alaskan halibut, wild king salmon, roast duck, and wagyu strip loin accompanied by an extensive selection of local wines and concluded by delectable desserts (hello, blackberry lavender pavlova). Start or end your evening at the lobby’s Scout Field Bar overlooking the property’s own vineyard in between sips of creative cocktails (a “fresca flaca” with strawberry-infused dahlia tequila, anyone?). Other options include the grab-and-go market Healdsburg Country Store and Hudson Springs Bar and Grill for poolside drinking and dining during warmer months.
For families and larger groups, the 4,600-square-foot Guest House is a three-bedroom compound complete with a private Jacuzzi, private kitchen, dining area, and outdoor firepit for the ultimate gathering place. A recently launched, over-the-top, “Sky’s the Limit” private jet package includes roundtrip private flights with Jet Edge, two nights in the Guest House with a private dinner, and a night sky photo session with an astro-photographer. It will only set you back $95,000.
Don’t ever want to leave? Montage Residences Healdsburg is selling fully furnished, four-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot Harvest Homes adjacent to the resort that will have access to all of the property’s services and amenities.
Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs
- What to Expect: More fun and social than serene, this tastefully restored midcentury spa-focused motel is right on Calistoga’s main drag.
- Location: Calistoga
- Book Now: From $279, expedia.com
Anyone who has spent any time in Calistoga is likely familiar with the iconic Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs—the neon sign alone is a landmark itself. Given its historic status in one of our favorite Napa towns, we were overjoyed when we found out that the property has received a massive overhaul and expansion.
On a recent visit in early August, my family and I discovered a totally transformed Dr. Wilkinson’s with chic, midcentury modern–inspired fully renovated rooms; a game-changing new onsite counter-service eatery, House of Better, serving up Southwestern-style weekend brunch and daily dinner (the fish and chicken tacos disappeared off our plates); and several entirely new guestroom concepts—a stand-alone one-bedroom bungalow, spa “cottages” featuring clawfoot tubs, and a restored five-room Victorian house where each room can be rented out individually or the entire house can be reserved for groups of up to 15.
The pool area (a highlight of the property) features two geothermal mineral pools sourced from Calistoga’s natural springs, one where the water is around 90 degrees and the other that is kept at 70 degrees, adorned by inviting plush lounge seating and set to the backdrop of playful and colorful oversized murals. Wine, beer, and food from House of Better can be served poolside or in the restaurant’s patio seating and lawn area.
The property was founded in 1952 by wellness expert John Wilkinson and wife Edy (hence the trademark turquoise 1952 Buick Special parked out front) and remains true to its spa roots with the 2021 incarnation featuring renovated spa treatment rooms, a new outdoor spa area, and several indoor mineral baths in the fully updated spa.
Dr. Wilkinson’s courts a mix of couples, families, and groups that take advantage of the central location to walk to nearby restaurants and bars—the scene can get lively on the weekends.
Calistoga Motor Lodge
- What to Expect: A design-forward reborn motel that welcomed the new Mediterranean-themed destination restaurant Fleetwood this summer.
- Location: Calistoga
- Book Now: From $209, expedia.com
Just up the street from Dr. Wilkinson’s is another reimagined classic—Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa. This well-designed and reasonably priced revamped midcentury motel has been a fan favorite of ours ever since it first opened several years ago. But the new onsite restaurant Fleetwood has really brought the property into its own.
Neither too fancy nor too casual, Fleetwood has outdoor seating with a European-style charm as well as a beautiful indoor space where diners can indulge in a seasonal, wood-fired menu that includes specials such as charred peppers and pickled veggies, as well as standards like spinach and ricotta agnolotti, buffalo mozzarella pizza, and oak-grilled salmon. But even the standards are far from standard.
The menu is both family friendly and elevated at the same time. My husband and I had dinner at Fleetwood in August with our two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, and the casual outdoor dining setting (Parisian-style garden tables and chairs set among the trees, market lights, and firepits) allowed us to roam and even play some of the property’s lawn games with the kiddos while we waited for our courses to arrive. Everything tastes spot-on, including the cocktails and wine.
Also housed in the same main building that calls Fleetwood home is a brand-new reception area, and 12 sleek Vista rooms with one king or two queen beds.
A playful property with its hip road-tripper theme (guest rooms have camper van–style dining tables and board games), Calistoga Motor Lodge also features 50 guest rooms and suites; the visually stunning MoonAcre Spa and Baths; three geothermal mineral pools; and ample games and activities such as winetastings, bocce ball, yoga classes, and bikes for rent. This really is a wine country escape that is great for guests of all ages.
Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection
- What to Expect: A luxurious resort escape that now has a second restaurant and new one- and two-bedroom cottage-style suites.
- Location: Calistoga
- Book Now: From $799, expedia.com
Yes, this is the third Calistoga property on this list and there’s another in the “coming soon” section below. Clearly, Calistoga is where it’s at right now and Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection, is no exception. This chic resort has always been a place to see and be seen in this corner of Napa Valley, but with a $30 million redesign unveiled this year, there are several new reasons to check into Solage. They include freshly renovated guest rooms and the brand-new one- and two-bedroom cottage-style suites with private patios, as well as a pool area that has been enhanced with a new deck, lounge seating, private cabanas, and a children’s pool.
The property also now features a new Mexican outpost Picobar (which joins the well-known signature restaurant Solbar) housed in a wooden barn and serving up tacos, queso, and cocktails.
The Lodge at Sonoma, an Autograph Collection hotel
- What to Expect: This artfully reinvented property pays stylistic homage to its original California mission-architecture roots.
- Location: Sonoma
- Book Now: From $499, expedia.com
The Lodge at Sonoma relaunched this year as part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, hotels that put a strong emphasis on craft and design. One look at the property and you can see it got the full Autograph treatment with its landscaping and interior features that tastefully pay tribute to the property’s original mission-style architecture throughout. There are 182 rooms, suites, and cottages, some with outdoor tubs and fireplaces. Chef Michael Mina is the star power behind the property’s Wit & Wisdom restaurant and bar. The more casual Benicia’s Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch, and the High Horse Bar (housed in a horse trailer) churns out fun cocktails poolside.
Guests can spend the day relaxing at the Raindance Spa, borrow bikes for tooling around wine country, or request off-property experiences such as grape harvesting and cheese-making.
Alila Napa Valley
- What to Expect: This adults-only property is all about sophisticated relaxation and delicious cuisine.
- Location: St. Helena
- Book Now: From $749, expedia.com
On March 1, the former Las Alcobas Napa Valley became Alila Napa Valley when it joined the Hyatt portfolio of brands. While the name has changed, Alila Napa Valley remains a sleek and sophisticated property made up of 68 uber-modern guest rooms and 9 suites all with outdoor balconies and terraces and many with a vineyard view. (A new bridge connects the hotel with the adjacent Beringer Vineyards.) The onsite Acacia House restaurant housed in the 1905 Georgian-style residence is a destination unto itself. The newly rebranded Spa Alila is a truly serene escape, as is the outdoor pool that overlooks the surrounding vineyards.
These hotels are coming soon
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley
- What to Expect: One of the most highly anticipated hospitality projects in the region, Four Seasons promises to bring star resort power and high-class service and design to northern Napa.
- Location: Calistoga
- Book now: From $1,800, expedia.com
Like many projects of this size and scope, there have been several delays (and pandemics don’t help), but Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley is finally taking reservations and is expected to officially open its doors in November 2021. Set on a working winery, the property will be home to 85 guest rooms, one-bedroom suites, and villas each with a private terrace, as well as a grand 3,400-square-foot Estate Villa with a private garden and pool.
True to the Calistoga legacy of spas, mineral waters, and wellness, the onsite Spa Talisa will be a cornerstone of the property. There will also be two outdoor swimming pools situated among the vineyards, a kids program, and several dining venues including the property’s signature Truss Restaurant and Bar.
Guests will be able to book guided bike tours, a trip to Safari West for animal-viewing, and winetastings.
Stanly Ranch, an Auberge Collection Resort
- What to Expect: A collection of modern cottages, villas, and residences situated on an estate winery.
- Location: Carneros
- Book now: From $1,000, aubergeresorts.com
With so many beautiful wineries in Napa Valley, it makes sense that one would serve as the setting for this luxe winery resort experience. Set on 96 acres of the 712-acre Stanly Ranch, this forthcoming Auberge Resorts Collection property (slated to open in late 2021) will feature 135 cottages, 40 villas, and 70 residences that bring the outside in with sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows and doors. The property pays homage to the region’s rich agricultural roots with its numerous gardens, orchards, lavender, and grapevines. The architecture is a modern interpretation of the valley’s early farmstead buildings. A great lawn area will serve as the heart of the resort, and guests will have access to a main resort pool (with bar and grill), a local ingredients–fueled restaurant, a family pool, espresso bar, bakery, spa, and fitness studio.
The Stavrand Russian River Valley
- What to Expect: An intimate boutique hotel nestled into the soaring redwood forest of Russian River.
- Location: Guerneville
- Book Now: From $419, expedia.com
Formerly the Applewood Inn, the new 21-room Stavrand Russian River Valley brings boutique luxury to one of our favorite destinations in Sonoma County—Russian River. The property, which will have its grand opening in September 2021, rests on six acres of redwood trees, orchards, and gardens. Relax poolside or in the spa, play outdoor lawn games, borrow bikes, or take kayaks and inner tubes down to the calm waters of Russian River. The charming town of Guerneville is a short walk or drive away. Stavrand is made up of three guest room buildings, including the historic Belden House dating back to 1922. The culinary program includes breakfast daily, lunch on-the-go options such as paninis and charcuterie plates, and private chef dinners.
>> Next: AFAR’s Ultimate Napa Valley Travel Guide