Wine Country's Time Honored Lodges
Before the verdant valleys of Napa and Sonoma were known as wine country, it was the new frontier, teeming with grizzly bears and opportunity. Today, there are not many relics left from those wild days. Here are three pre-1906 earthquake lodging options — sweetened with award-winning cuisine — that have stood the test of time.
Fans of Comedy Central’s Drunk History and the movie Sideways should run, don’t walk, to Sonoma’s Beltane Ranch. The then–Drummond Ranch was established in 1878 by John Drummond, a pioneer California viticulturist and winemaker who was one of the first to graft the old mission-style grapevines to fine wine varieties, which included introducing merlot to California in 1883. In 1892 the ranch and surrounding homesteads were purchased by the legendary Mary Ellen Pleasant, a daughter of slaves, who rose to a position of considerable financial and political power in San Francisco. Pleasant built the existing ranch house, and husband-and-wife team Teresa and Thomas Bell managed the ranch as vacation lodging, which eventually became known as Beltane Ranch. Today, Alex Benward, Lauren Benward Krause and Alexa Wood own and operate the five-room-plus- one-cottage property and serve up critically acclaimed wine country cuisine fresh from onsite gardens. beltaneranch.com
Built in 1906 by master craftsman E. W. Doughty, who was also responsible for building many of Napa’s landmark homes and churches, the Cabernet House doubled as an advertising tool for Doughty (he also built the Noyes Mansion, the home of Wine Spectator Magazine). Full of rich architectural detailing he could show to potential clients, the house is situated so that travelers would see it for several blocks as they headed out of town. In the 1970s, a spa tub builder created an outdoor hot tub for the house that resembled a cluster of wine grapes, with the “grapes” conveniently creating alcoves for individual hot tubbers. A few years later, that same builder bought the property, renovated it and converted it into one of Napa Valley’s first bed and breakfast inns. The Napa Valley Bed and Breakfast Inn opened its doors to guests in 1979 and became a historic landmark that same year. Today guests can choose to stay in one of eight rooms or a private cottage at the Cabernet House, all with fireplaces, and enjoy a gourmet “wine taster’s” breakfast each morning. oldworldinn.com
Back in 1879, San Francisco businessman John Alexander Paxton purchased 240 acres in Dry Creek Valley for $10,500. The next year, he commissioned a 17-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom, 17-fireplace home for another $12,000. Today it is the second oldest home in Sonoma County. Even though Paxton disinherited his eldest son, Blitz, the son ended up with the property by default and sold off most of the acreage. By 1981, under the ownership of John Harry Muir, it became a top wine country destination and that trend has continued under the reign of current owners Trudi and Bill Konrad, who maintain the historical vibe with many original pieces throughout the property. The historic grounds, garden and large estate make this a popular wedding destination, and the Michelin-starred restaurant and cozy quarters make it a favorite romantic getaway. madronamanor.com