Above: Montage Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California

Sonoma’s New Resorts

Certain places draw me back again and again, and the wine country of Northern California ranks high among them. I still feel a thrill as I cross the Golden Gate Bridge, knowing that I will soon arrive in one of the world’s leading wine regions. Others may be more scenic than Napa and Sonoma — Chianti and South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley immediately spring to mind — but few have a comparable concentration of world-class resorts and restaurants. After last year’s wildfires, it would be understandable to imagine the entire area charred black. As devastating as the fires were, however, the valleys remain extremely beautiful, with sun-soaked vineyards backdropped by rounded mountains and threaded by winding allées. Hotels, restaurants and wineries are open once again, and most (as of this writing) are operating normally.

Montage Healdsburg

The view from our Deluxe Mountain King Room - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

Napa Valley has long had a virtual monopoly on grand resorts, whereas the top properties in Sonoma County (a series of valleys) have tended to be smaller hideaways. The 130-room Montage Healdsburg, which opened in December 2020, is a major step toward correcting the imbalance. Although the resort is only a few minutes’ drive north of the town’s main square, it feels like a retreat deep in the countryside, set amid 258 hilly acres of vineyards and oak forest. The hotel sold for a reported $265 million earlier this year, but it remains under Montage management.

The lengthy driveway, which was still partially under construction at the time of our visit, curved past plots of spindly young grapevines and groves of mature trees to the main building. Inside the brown, low-rise, glass-walled structure, we discovered a large gas fireplace separating reception from a bar-lounge furnished with midcentury armchairs and sofas. A separate concierge desk — increasingly rare, nowadays — stood near the bar and reception, making it easy to walk up for advice about nearby restaurants.

A group of 14 had arrived just before us, which could easily have resulted in a long delay to check in. But the front desk had called for backup, and we had to wait only a minute or two before our formalities were complete. Encouraged by this display of proactive good service, we boarded a golf cart that sped us to our room.

The first sight of the taupe-colored villas housing the accommodations was not inspiring. Although surrounded by oaks draped with Spanish moss, their uninvitingly boxy entrances faced the road surrounding the property. However, we found that our guest room, like the main building, was far more attractive inside than out. We had booked a Deluxe Mountain King Room, the highest category before the suites. “Mountain” accommodations have more expansive views of the Sonoma hills; those labeled “Forest” have terraces surrounded by trees, which provide privacy. And those classified as “Vineyard” overlook swaths of grapevines. Lodgings labeled “Deluxe” have the addition of an outdoor shower, an indulgence worth the extra expense. The largest accommodation is the three-bedroom Guest House, located at one of the property’s highest points, with multiple terraces, a kitchen and an outdoor hot tub. But for a couple, my first choice would be a junior suite-like Deluxe Mountain Studio.

Above: Montage Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California

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