the carneros inn and spa

Carneros, Spanish for rams (male sheep), is a small, primarily agricultural region located in the southern tip of Napa and Sonoma counties only a hop skip and a jump away from the urban Bay Area. The volcanic soil, once believed to be inhospitable to Napa’s signature vineyards, is ideal for pinot noir grapes. Furthermore, the up-and-coming region’s surrounding vineyards are cradled by the rolling green hills that epitomize California and provide views from the Carneros Inn that are as luxurious as the facilities.

Carneros’ inn and spa go hand in hand. You simply can’t have one without the other here, even by law. Zoning regulations dictate that guests of the spa must also be guests of the inn. Whether you have come to stay overnight or simply scheduled enough treatments ($300 minimum) to be a day-guest in a luxury bungalow, a room will be waiting to receive you when you are done with your goat butter massage or other indulgence of choice. 

I chose the Carneros Classic Facial, a selection in the menu category titled “The Harvests.” After a long day in the sun, the “True” facial care products that my therapist applied were a welcome moisture-packed and freshening experience. The lavender aromatherapy was positively tranquilizing and I felt very pampered. After my facial, I blissfully glided in for a steam. The room was infused with fragrances from a giant basket of fresh herbs in the corner including sage, rosemary and lemongrass – a technique that avoided olfactory overwhelm. As I emerged into the spa’s shower, I was greeted with a bright blue glimpse of sky framing the tender spring leaves of a walnut tree branch outside. This, I thought, is truly the value of leaving the city. 

The spa’s treatment menu is inspired by the land, featuring local specialties like hand-mixed goat butter, a concoction that later became the basis for the most popular massage offering. The menu is divided into natural-sounding categories: the farms, the harvests, the minerals, the flowers and of course, the cellars, each of which include themed facials, massages, baths or other treatments that follow the themes. The upcoming “creeks” line will feature outdoor, custom-made baths lined with creek stones.

Massage recipients have consistently raved about the bodyworkers at Carneros. Perhaps this is partly owing to the fact that there are no abbreviated treatments of 50 minutes or less offered here, all in the name of a luxurious and low-stress environment. Carneros slows everything down except the service. 

The new facilities will include a yoga studio and town center of sorts, with a post office and weekly farmers markets. Currently, yoga can be ordered in your room for about $100 per hour. As I learned at Carneros, there is nothing quite like waking up into a private Anusara Yoga session and the chirping of Wine Country birds as the early sunlight is magnified through the prior evening’s wine glasses that still sit, a memento to a lovely evening, on the patio’s table.

Carneros seems to embrace the architectural philosophy that modern geometrical shapes complement a landscape best. There is a modern simplicity about the place, accenting the natural surroundings. Almost overwhelmingly symmetrical, the paths are lined with conical lamps while a giant rectangular pool and semi-circle Jacuzzi overlook the vineyards from the “Hilltop.” The many fruit trees, including an apple orchard that is popular for weddings, are young and manicured and slightly compromise the rustic feeling in favor of a more polished aesthetic. The cabins’ triangular tin roofs can be seen for acres and acres in a sort of mini suburbia of luxury bungalows. However, this suburban sense of being one among many disappears the minute I step inside my room.

Ranging from $435 to $1,200, the cabins feature heated slate bathroom floors, plasma TVs, leather furniture, Jacuzzi bathtubs and private decks with overhead heaters for the chilly evenings spent outside sipping Napa’s fine wines. Besides my own personal rosemary and lavender garden, my favorite feature was the rustic outdoor shower, which supplemented, but did not replace, indoor facilities. 

The Hilltop restaurant offers fine dining while the Boonfly Café, which is open to the public in addition to guests, is a more casual lunch/breakfast joint with fresh, homemade donuts that the resort staff raves about. Napa is a destination for indulging in the body’s pleasures: those who can afford it are seeking the best wine and the most delectable food (the fresh donuts did prove to be a treasure). What better than to assist the body’s decompression/detoxification in a luxury atmosphere? At Carneros, every pore can finally take a deep breath and relax.

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