Summer is an ideal time to visit favorite haunts and sample new experiences in Napa and Sonoma, with long, light-filled days for wine tasting and soaking by the pool, and cool evenings in front of a firepit with a glass of your latest find. Here are recently introduced innovations and renovations that reflect the best of Wine Country.
A 45-minute drive north from San Francisco, Sonoma County boasts more than 425 wineries and 60,000 acres of vineyards, for which the original owner of MacArthur Place, a newly transformed boutique hotel in the town of Sonoma, can take at least partial credit. Founder of Sonoma’s first bank, David Burris bankrolled some of the area’s first vineyards from his library in the gracious mansion he built in 1869, a few blocks from historic Sonoma Plaza.
In 1997, the house and outbuildings on six leafy acres became a country-style inn, with a garden pool and spa and a casual restaurant popular with locals. Now under new ownership, the tranquil, 64-room compound (introductory rates from $551) gleams with contemporary farmhouse chic — oak wood floors, blackened steel beams, woven benches — and luxurious touches such as heated bathroom floors and, in some rooms, outdoor showers and wood-burning fireplaces. Service is swift, solicitous and gratuity-free.
Dining at MacArthur Place feels relaxed but with elevated Mediterranean cuisine that will make its renamed Layla restaurant a destination in its own right. Executive chef Cole Dickinson, a protégé of Michael Voltaggio and winner of Food Network’s “Chopped,” was wooed away from Napa Valley’s highly acclaimed Acacia House to reimagine the menu here, with standouts such as halibut shakshuka, salt-baked whole sea bass, patatas bravas in smoked paprika tomato jam and English pea hummus. The adjacent Bar at MacArthur Place sports a modern Western look, with local craft spirits, artisanal beers and intriguing wines. At the Porch, sip an espresso drink from a custom coffee roast on the tree-lined deck or pick up Sonoma-made provisions for a picnic. macarthurplace.com
For exclusive wine-tasting experiences, as well as exploration of Sonoma’s sustainable farming scene or its scenic areas associated with author Jack London, the new Bohemian Highway Travel Company provides expert guides who drive classic Land Rover SUVs that hold up to seven passengers. All tours (from $175 per person) are private and customizable, with Napa and Healdsburg itineraries also an option. Hamel Family Wines, a newer biodynamic winery featuring beautiful hillside vistas and a wine cave with a panel revealing layers of surrounding rock is worth a stop if time allows. You also can set up private tasting appointments ($60 to $125) on your own, but the Bohemian Highway guide also provides thoughtful commentary en route. bohohwy.com; hamelfamilywines.com
Two wineries offer novel ways to spend time among the vines. At Enriquez Estate Wines in Forestville, part of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley wine region, visitors can enjoy brunch ($45) with a view of its 4.5 acres of Pinot Noir grapevines, plus live music and cooking demonstrations by local chefs. At Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Healdsburg, its newly planted, 6-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is now the venue for a guided tasting ($75) of Jordan Chardonnay and three vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with charcuterie from local Journeyman Meat Co. The Chateau Block Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Tasting runs through October. enriquezwines.com; jordanwinery.com
Carneros Resort and Spa has been a discreet getaway for Hollywood celebrities and a favorite dining spot for locals since its 2003 opening at the southern end of Napa Valley. It’s likely to continue to play that role thanks to the recent makeover of its spa and 94 light-filled cottages and suites (from $650), and executive chef Aaron Meneghelli’s seasonal, regional menus at the resort’s three restaurants. At the family-friendly Boon Fly Cafe, try new dishes such as chicken-fried broccolini ($16) or braised short ribs with port wine reduction ($28). Arrive in style via the “Wine and Away” package, which includes private jet service to Napa Valley, accommodations in one of the resort’s private residences, and spa and in-home dining experiences. carnerosresort.com
In Yountville, famed for The French Laundry and other Michelin-starred restaurants, The Estate Yountville’s 22-acre complex has reinvented its two boutique hotels and created a new, ultra-luxurious vacation rental on the grounds of the former Groezinger Winery. Those seeking more privacy and space than the 80-room Vintage House or 112-room Hotel Villagio may opt for the five-bedroom Villa (from $3,400), which includes two handmade Hästens beds (retailing at $40,000 apiece), a chef’s kitchen, spacious terrace with pool and hot tub. The compound’s Shops at the Marketplace is a brick-lined warren of galleries, shops, celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant and his Ottimo specialty food market/pizzeria/cafe. villagio.com
For a taste of the Roaring Twenties, ride the Napa Valley Wine Train during one of its new murder-mystery dinners ($216). Participants are encouraged to wear flapper gear or Dick Tracy-style fedoras and pinstripe suits, but “plainclothes detectives” also are welcome, with entertainment in the Napa station preceding the three-hour journey and a multicourse meal. The real mystery may be how to score tickets on short notice — best to book as far in advance as possible. winetrain.com