Where to Stay in the Wine Country
Six month after the fires, hospitality in the Wine Country has never been more inviting.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Petaluma
In October 2017, as the most destructive wildfires in California history burned large areas of the Wine Country, hospitality professionals in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties did what they do best: They helped people. In a show of the industry’s true mettle, the staff of many area hotels, inns, and restaurants welcomed hundreds of exhausted evacuees, firefighters, volunteers, and emergency personnel during the crisis and hosted them with the utmost care.
“We turned our grand ballroom into a shelter and filled the room with mattresses,” said Dustin Groff, general manager of downtown Petaluma’s historic Hotel Petaluma.
“We turned the corporate boardroom into a kids’ playroom. Local restaurants provided food. It was amazing to see every business downtown open their doors. Along with the chaos and devastation, there was this uplifting, positive experience of humanity.”
Now, with the fires thankfully long extinguished, Wine Country venues are back to providing traditional tourists with safe, beautiful havens. And in case there are any lingering doubts, not only is the industry in full recovery, it’s flourishing. No longer are hotels luring visitors with post-fire specials; instead, a substantial number of newly opened properties and plenty more in development have increased competition for visitor dollars across the still-healing region, and amenities abound.
In Napa Valley, spruced-up hotels saw a winter and early spring boost in occupancy and revenue over the last year, according to data from Visit Napa Valley, and there have been several high-profile openings since the fires. In downtown Napa, the new Archer Hotel Napa features 143 rooms and a rooftop bar and ledge pool, as well as a steakhouse helmed by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer. In St. Helena, The Ink House luxury boutique inn opened in February, offering four high-end rooms in a restored home originally built in 1885. Meant to provide a truly singular, “curated” Wine Country experience, The Ink House’s extravagant packages are carefully tailored to each guest.
Spring also saw the unveiling of the redesigned Wine Country Inn, a bed-and-breakfast-style lodge with guest rooms and residential-style cottages surrounded by vineyards near St. Helena. This longstanding classic was recently bought by Kokua Management, LLC, and has undergone a modernizing refresh. In July, look for the grand opening of 145-room Vista Collina Resort in Napa, near the Meritage Resort and Spa, featuring a retail component with nine tasting rooms, monthly markets, outdoor concerts, and live cooking demonstrations.
New lodging options in Sonoma County include Santa Rosa’s colorful, vintage-chic Astro Motel — softly opened to help during the fires and then launched to an eager public in January — that provides bicycle-friendly amenities galore and midcentury-modern appeal at an approachable price. Newer, larger corporate hotels include the Holiday Inn Windsor Wine Country in Windsor and the Oxford Suites Sonoma County-Rohnert Park, which opened the month before the fires. Both feature pools, dining, fitness and business centers, and other amenities.
Meanwhile, the Hotel Petaluma — an ornate gem of a building dating back to 1923 and reopened as a boutique hotel in 2015 — is undergoing restoration while hosting guests, with all renovations expected to be fully complete within the year. And as of press time, the anticipated 75-room Hampton Inn Petaluma, set inside the historic Petaluma Silk Mill near downtown, is accepting reservations beginning mid-May.
“Some people might be reluctant or need reassurance or permission to travel back up” to the region, said Tim Zahner, chief operating officer and spokesperson for Sonoma County Tourism. “The answer is: You should come up here. There is a lot going on.”
Wine Country Lodging
205 Kentucky St., Petaluma, 707-559-3393, HotelPetaluma.com
Archer Hotel Napa
1230 First St., Napa, 707-690-9800, ArcherHotel.com/napa
The Ink House
1575 St. Helena Way, St. Helena, 707-968-9686, InkHouseNapaValley.com
Wine Country Inn
1152 Lodi Lane, St. Helena, 707-963-7077, WineCountryInn.com
323 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-200-4655, TheAstro.com