Just five or six days after a busy week in San Francisco, I ventured north yet again, an hour beyond the City, to Napa Valley and its environs.
There are many iconic spots throughout the state which say “California,” but there is California, and there is California. Disneyland says one thing, Santa Monica says another, San Francisco says its thing, and Napa Valley tells its own unique story.
Napa says “wine” the loudest, but our quick jaunt north had nothing to do with grapevines, and more about redesign.
We visited two of Napa’s Four Sisters’ inns—the Lavender and the Milliken Creek Inn—for two days and evenings in August, and both were like whispers across a crowded room, promising a respite from the every day and the every thing.
The Lavender sits on a quiet side street corner off an equally quiet main street. The rustic but stylish property offers just a handful of rooms, each decorated with subtlety and quiet panache.
It offers a free complimentary full breakfast each morning, but offers far more in terms of mood and ambience. Our cottage-like room offered polished wood floors, a deadly comfortable king-sized bed, a working gas fireplace, and french doors that opened onto a small private patio with lounge chairs and a private and secluded jacuzzi.
With no restaurant of its own to speak of, dinner meant driving up the street to the “city center,” where the town of Yountville is a serious foodie hang that offers numerous designer restaurants and eateries, presided over by award-winning young chefs. Arriving as we did on a Sunday afternoon, the early evening saw a parade of locals, dressed in their finest. strolling “uptown” to sample any number of the wineries and eateries.
We opted for R+D Kitchen, part of a small triumvirate of shops and restaurants, including a wine shop. R+D is essentially a designer comfort food spot. How designer? The mashed potatoes served with my awesome Carnitas sandwich of slow-roasted pork, and jack cheese on a house-made bun were referred to as “pureed potatoes.” Really?
We dined in the “front yard” of our small courtyard apartment/room/suite in the very quiet of the early evening, as a gaggle of women, freshly made up and perfumed, headed out, giggling, to their Sunday dinner.
As Monday morning arrived, we enjoyed breakfast in the kitchen/reception area of the main house, gathering our meal from a small table of fresh offerings in a foyer.We left as quietly as we arrived, with a few hours to spare before the next inn.
We spent that time in Downtown Napa, another iconic but far-less known or appreciated spot. We strolled among the shops and restaurants around the Wine Train station at McKinstry, until the Oxbow Public Market caught our eye.
Oxbow Public Market is a 40,000 square-foot marketplace, including an outdoor deck with seating along the Napa River, two butcher shops, a fish market, local organic produce store, artisan cheese and wine shop, spice market, chocolate company, olive oil shop, several bakeries and dessert producers, coffee shop, distillery, a variety of ethnic restaurants, and oyster bar.
Over empanadas and cherry cola, we watched the world stroll by as we caught up.
We window shopped for a while longer in the downtown area, until it was time to head for the newly renovated luxury boutique, Milliken Creek Inn.
The inn has just completed an extensive, months-long renovation to its location along the banks of the Napa River.
The update includes a new décor, custom-made furnishings, modern lighting and curated art, as well as new paint, hardwood flooring, and new fixtures.
A number of Milliken Creek Inn’s 11 redesigned guestrooms have river views, private decks or patios, and four now have their own fire pits. All feature king-sized beds, most have romantic fireplaces, and many offer oversized soaking tubs.
Our king room, more like a large suite, featured all of the mentioned improvements, and we loved the Bluetooth Tivoli speakers and 55” Samsung televisions with the complimentary Apple TV.
Apple-wise, hotel-furnished iPads also allows guests to browse magazine and newspaper subscriptions, make breakfast selections or order in-room dining.
Our personal private deck boasted a gas-powered fire pit overlooking the river and grounds. There are also intimate seating areas with fire pits flanking a koi pond.
While we opted for delivery pizza for our evening dinner, a cooked-to-order breakfast is provided with every stay, delivered directly to the guest room or anywhere else on the property, at a guest’s request.
We enjoyed our breakfast on a crystal clear morning, out on the deck with a view of the creek, and wondered who exactly had it better than us at that moment.
There is also an afternoon mini-picnic offered, with wine, cheeses and freshly baked cookies. Anything else? Perhaps some cordials and s’mores kits for later in the evening? Check. But of course.
The Milliken Creek Inn is a quietly spectacular place to visit, to forget, and to always remember.