Above: Pool terrace at Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, California

We're Longing to Return to the Napa Valley

In the halcyon time prior to COVID-19, I was accustomed to making regular visits to the Napa Valley. It has long been one of my favorite areas of the United States, with its idyllic landscape and benign climate, as well as some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the country. On most such trips I would invariably find time to drop by a winery, usually one that had been recommended by our Wine Concierge, Hal Oates, whose company, Porthos, is based in nearby San Rafael. Occasionally Hal would join me, having arranged a private tasting at a winery not generally open to the public. Sitting on a hilltop in the California sunshine, gazing across the rows of vines, a glass of fruit-filled Cabernet in hand, I was often overwhelmed by a feeling of blissful contentment. Now confined at home, it is hard not to feel nostalgia for pleasures that I once took for granted. At the time of writing, some restaurants and wineries have opened for outdoor dining and tastings, but it will be a while yet before the valley is fully open. However, I console myself with the thought that as travel restarts, Napa will probably be one of the first places to see normality restored.

Palisades Room at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley - Four Seasons
Residences at the Four Seasons in Napa, scheduled to open in October 2020 - Four Seasons

At the first opportunity I intend to jump on a plane to San Francisco. There is never a need to manufacture an excuse for a visit to Napa, as there is always something new to see. The first stop on my upcoming trip will be at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley, which will be reopening later this year.

Located along Silverado Trail outside Calistoga, it comprises 85 rooms and suites, with what promise to be memorable views of the vineyards and Palisades Mountains. It will also be possible to rent private villas, which may well prove a popular option if social distancing is still a necessity, or indeed a mandatory precaution. Aside from two restaurants, amenities at the property will include the extravagant Spa Talisa — Calistoga has a 150-year history as a spa destination — featuring treatments incorporating the local mineral-rich mud, as well as oil made from grape seeds and olives grown on the estate. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the new resort will be an on-site organic winery, with 5 1/2 acres of vineyards. It will be under the control of renowned winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, who has received no fewer than 23 perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker for his Cabernet Sauvignons over the past decade. In spite of its wine theme, and unusually for the Napa Valley, this property looks like it will be a good choice for families, thanks to its dedicated pool and Kids for All Seasons program of activities.

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Above: Pool terrace at Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford, California