Wine Country Chic 5-12-2005

Gatsby would feel right at home at this classic Napa resort

By: Bill Becker

ST. HELENA, Calif. Less than an hour’s drive inland from San Francisco is rest, wine and great cuisine in and around the tony hamlet of St. Helena. In the heart of this setting lies Meadowood.

A bucolic, neatly developed resort, Meadowood lies on a 250-acre former Christmas tree farm, with its own nine-hole golf course and two croquet lawns.

At times, the resort feels as if it leapt out of the pages of Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Case in point: Besides Meadowood’s croquet lawns, the resort features old-style hickory-stick golf. The hickory clubs and lessons the only cache of hickory clubs in regular use west of the Mississippi are supposedly especially good for those just taking up the game.

As for lodging, one finds not rooms, but 85 meticulously appointed cottages, suites or lodges set in the woods. Lodgings contain plush furniture velour sofas and loveseats around a warming fireplace with classic white wicker on the porch.

Cozy cabin life is the name of the game here. With down comforters resting on high-thread-count sheets and blankets, bathrooms that feature deep soaking tubs and cottages that come with coffeemakers and toasters for handy morning victuals.

But lest we forget this is chic Napa, a guest service manager stays on top of the best restaurant seats in the area, forging the way for guests’ reservations both on the Meadowood estate and in surrounding towns.

The resort also employs a resident wine expert, John Thoreen, also known as The Wine Tutor. He can produce customized itineraries for guests to any and all of the vintners and winemakers in the valley.

Completing the picture is a phalanx of valets that dispatch themselves in golf carts to the cottages, serving guests’ every need.

On the activity side, guests have a choice of relaxation, or recreation, usually combined with transformation. One can use, relax by or sunbathe near two pools a family pool and a lap pool. There is also a tennis club, along with splendid asphalt courts.

Finally, the Health Spa recently instituted full 60-, 90- and 120-minute treatments built around the themes of “Renewal, Clarity, Enlightenment, Serenity, Harmony and Discovery.” Guests making use of the spa can also choose to be lavished with the essence of aged cabernet or merlot grapes, upon request.

Then again, guests will find mere walks in the woods to be transforming. There are nearly five miles of trails surrounding Meadowood. One leads to a quiet labyrinth on a hill, perfect for meditation and rumination.

Meanwhile, at the activity buildings, your clients can join a yoga, tai chi or group meditation class. A schedule of these activities is posted weekly in the fitness gym and in the spa’s gift shop.

If your clients are more interested in shopping than hiking, however, the resort is only one mile from St. Helena’s quaint Main Street, with its clothing, gift and home design shops.

Considering how nourishing the resort itself can be, however, it’s doubtful that your client will ever get past the stand of olive trees marking the resort entrance.


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