Feature image (above): The newest luxury hotel in Napa Valley is Las Alcobas Napa Valley, located in St. Helena. // © 2017 Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley
Las Alcobas Napa Valley features vineyard views from most guestrooms. // © 2017 Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley
Napa Valley, Calif., is not a luxury hotel desert. Competition among hotels is fierce, but the newest entry — Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley — doesn’t see that as a bad thing. In many ways, the high-end valley is the perfect place for Las Alcobas to highlight its differences.
Like its sister property in Mexico City, Las Alcobas’ California retreat offers the inimitable touches of a boutique property as well as the stability and amenities expected from the most established luxury brands.
Several times during my stay, it occurred to me that someone must have meditated deeply on where big-box luxury hotels sometimes fall short. That person is Samuel Leizorek, a rare CEO, owner and founder who lives and breathes the smallest details of his hotels.
“We live in an age of mass customization in luxury,” Leizorek told me, ramping up to voice his existential dilemma. “How do we remain human in a binary world?”
For Leizorek, the goal of Las Alcobas is to balance modernity with the lost art of old-world hospitality — of playing host and connecting with new people while traveling.
Wine and Wind Down
Perhaps the hotel’s biggest point of differentiation — and what makes it a very easy sell for wine-country vacationers — is its special St. Helena location.
Las Alcobas is one of the very few properties in Napa with rooms sitting on a vineyard.
When my host butler took me to my room, I did what Leizorek told me most people do — I succumbed to the magnetic pull of my terrace, where the vineyards were so close I could almost taste the wine.
But to actually sip the reds from those vines — which are part of the neighboring Beringer Vineyards estate — I had to leave the hotel and walk a few steps (soon to be made even easier with the construction of a small bridge that will connect Las Alcobas to Beringer).
Beringer offers Las Alcobas guests — and only Las Alcobas guests — the opportunity to taste wines from those vines (called the St. Helena Home Vineyard) as part of an exclusive tasting. This required Beringer to hoard these reserves for the last few years.
Wine fun doesn’t end there, though. The hotel’s concierge can set up tasting appointments around town (ideally before guests arrive). Other hotels do this too, but what makes Las Alcobas unique is the fact that visitors can walk to so many of St. Helena’s charming restaurants, quaint tasting rooms and wineries due to its location along Main Street.
While guests can enjoy the perks of being in a central location, they’re far from any street noise. Most of the rooms are located in one of two small newbuild buildings that overlook the vineyard.
In addition to full picture windows, many of the 68 guestrooms come equipped with terraces featuring fire pits — 10 rooms even feature standalone tubs. Birds chirp, the sun shines and there’s something very calming about staring at the symmetry of the vines from a rocking chair as the bonfire burns or the tub fills. (Because most vineyard labor is done in the middle of the night and the early morning, there’s little chance for any awkward human interaction.)
Inside, the rooms also manage to bridge the gap of our “binary world” by being warm and inviting while benefiting from the latest tech gadgets, such as a toilet complete with a remote control and ability to program settings for two people, and a bedside lighting-and-curtain system that is the most intuitive I’ve ever encountered. The feeling of home comes from the soft linens, the cozy bed and the generous selection of complimentary snacks (such as freshly ground coffee beans and a French press, canned matcha tea, nuts and granola). At night, rooms achieve an elusive pitch-black, especially because there’s no bright alarm clock shining by the bed. In fact, there’s no room clock at all, because guests are meant to recharge here.
The shower and bath are located separately from the toilet — both sectioned off with sliding doors along the hallway. The bathing complex includes a rain shower, an adjustable showerhead and a tub. In addition to texture, the property fixates on smell, using scents to create mood.
“I’m very romantic and always thinking of what would make something special,” Leizorek said.
In the bathroom, this materializes with a full set of grapefruit-and-fir products (Naturopathica’s first bespoke scent) and a full-size bar of soap, made locally from wine.
Dine and Detox
Overlooking Main Street is the plot’s only original structure. Built in 1905 but gutted and reanimated beyond its original glory, the Georgian-style Acacia House is the site of six guestrooms, the concierge, the full bar and the restaurant.
The latter is the reason I spent so much time around Acacia House. On its white wraparound porch, I devoured double-baked almond croissants and other morning indulgences perfected by executive pastry chef Curtis Cameron (ditch any diets — pastries are part of the continental breakfast included for all hotel guests).
For lunch and dinner, I typically migrated inside the Acacia House, hibernating by the table facing the kitchen, where I could spot chef Chris Cosentino (a winner of “Top Chef Masters”) and his team creating dishes that appeal to hotel guests and Bay Area foodies alike. The approachable food, attractive living room vibe and attentive service have also won the hearts of the local ladies who lunch. They swung by our table doling out the kind of compliments you give strangers only after being adequately wined and dined.
Cosentino is known for his meat, and his menu reflects his reputation: A favorite guest dish is the hulking steak of Iberico pork schnitzel, topped with watercress, ranch dressing and a liberal serving of caviar. My vegetarian and healthy-leaning palate was also catered to with the morning’s homemade yogurt, baked eggs, green juice and turmeric shots as well as dinner’s multiple homemade vegetarian pastas. For lunch, Acacia House serves the Impossible Burger, a buzzworthy vegan patty with a tightly controlled distribution; trying it here, where it’s excellently executed and can be balanced with a vibrant crudite or margarita topped with salted foam, was a treat.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Las Alcobas is how excellently it caters to detox/retoxers like me. Though I squeezed in five wine tastings in the course of two days, I also started off two mornings with a private yoga class in the property’s well-appointed gym, and ended my trip at Atrio, the property’s spa. Atrio differentiates itself through its focus on aromatherapy and ancient treatments — such as abhyanga (an ayurvedic oil massage) and Balinese massage.
Every spa appointment begins with the workshopping of a custom organic essential oil blend, which is then used during the treatment and given to the guest to take home. Personalized, vitalizing and the result of in-person collaboration, it’s a logical way to bottle up the Las Alcobas experience.