Meadowood: Napa’s Wine Country Respite
By Linda Hayes
My visits to Napa Valley have always involved meticulous planning. Armed with an abundance of guides and maps, and fortified by touts from culinary cohorts, I’d tour state-of-the-art wineries (tasting as I went, of course), dine at top-notch restaurants whose chefs take their inspiration from the local terroir, and shop for everything from locally-pressed olive oil to French antiques. While my experiences have never been less than extraordinary, they somehow never seemed to allow room for serendipity.
So when the opportunity arose for my husband to attend a wine writers symposium at the transcendent Meadowood Resort in St. Helena last month, I decided to tag along. My plan? To simply follow my whims and, with no agenda at all, let nature take its course.
Meadowood is the perfect place to do just that. Set on a private 250-acre estate off the Silverado Trail, it was started in 1964 as a small country club for the local wine-growing community. Today, under the guidance of founder and managing partner H. William Harlan (he’s also owner of Harlan Estate and BOND Estates wineries and founder of the Napa Valley Reserve), Meadowood is both luxury resort and private club. A member of Relais & Chateaux since 1987, it is the personification of the association’s five “Cs” – character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine.
Beyond a long vineyard-side drive, sprawling lawns are dotted with steaming swimming pools, verdant croquet lawns (croquet whites are de rigueur), secluded tennis courts and an executive golf course. Clusters of gray and white gabled cottages — some all but hidden in hillside oaks and pines, some with sweeping garden views, most with wood-burning fireplaces — house 85 guestrooms and suites.
While my husband spent his days hustling off to wine tastings, seminars and vineyard tours, I really did manage to let Meadowood’s leisurely pace set mine. I hiked the four miles of trails that criss-cross the hills above the resort, including one that led up to a peaceful stone labyrinth, took dunks in the poolside hot tub and indulged in a grape seed mud wrap at the spa. Every evening, I watched the sun set over the vineyards from the cozy window seat in my room.
When I felt like getting out and about, I headed into St. Helena, just a few minutes away, where a two-block stretch of historic Main Street is filled with all sorts of fun and interesting shops. I nibbled amazing handmade sweets from Woodhouse Chocolates, sampled cookies from Model Bakery, drooled over a pair of turquoise Jimmy Choo’s at Footcandy and booked dinner at Cook for our final night.
As we made our departing ride down that long drive, sharing the experiences of our parallel trips, we had only one lament. We had missed the reopening of Meadowood’s newly renovated, three-Michelin-star restaurant — and chef Christopher Kostow’s highly lauded cuisine– by exactly one week. A good reason, we figured, to plan a return.
Linda Hayes is an Aspen-based freelancer who writes about culinary travel, architecture/design and the luxury lifestyle. She has been a long-time contributor to Luxe Interiors & Design, SKI, Association News, Aspen Magazine, Mountain Living, Stratos, genconnect.com and gardenstotables.com, and has written for Western Interiors, Elle Deco, Hemispheres, Hawaiian Style, Robb Report and others. When she’s not on the road, Linda makes her home in an architect-designed, modern straw bale house with elk and deer for neighbors. She lives with her husband, Kelly J. Hayes (a wine writer and spotter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football), a black Labrador named Vino and a sourdough starter named Rosemary.