Napa Valley's Iconic Auberge du Soleil: a luxurious weekend getaway
by Nicole Viduka
Entering Napa wine country along the scenic Silverado Trail, I could sense an imminent ease and tranquility in the atmosphere. After ten days spent in the Nevada Black Rock desert participating in the infamous Burning Man festival, my body sighed with relaxation as I took in the fresh, dust-free valley air.
Once erupting volcanoes, the rolling hillside remains adorned with rows of vineyards frame the valley in a picturesque motif nothing short of quintessential Napa captured in a David Lloyd Glover print. Contemplating the lazy Napa River cradled by Mount St. Helena to the east and the forested Mayacamas mountains to the west, I could see why the region attracts so many (20.4 million visited its 450 plus wineries last year). Its 45,200 acres of vineyards bearing some of the top Cabernets in the world, along with phenomenal dining and fabulous places to stay, it’s no surprise Napa attracts epicures from across the globe.
Arriving at the iconic Auberge du Soleil, we were immediately greeted by a friendly, unpresumptuous staff member who, upon handing us our first glass of what would be many a Chardonnay, escorted us to our villa where we would spend the next two days. The Auberge du Soleil is the flagship of the idyllic Auberge resort brand. Nestled in the terraced hillside overlooking panoramic views of the valley and a 33-acre olive grove, it’s no wonder this 35 year old European-style resort is an enduring Forbes 5 star winner and one of the leading hotels of the world.
The 50-room property recently launched eight new guest rooms of beautiful clean design by acclaimed San Francisco designer Suzanne Tucker. The rooms feature sun-drenched neutral tones, creamy limestone and bleached woods. The custom king-sized bed with oversized organic mattress, and hand-carved headboard extending to the ceiling is the focal point of the dreamy suite. Add to that a fireplace, massive sculptural soaking tub, open-air shower illuminated by natural skylights, heated limestone floors and a private terrace with stunning valley views; the rooms are truly a seductive retreat. And not one detail is amiss, from the welcome bottle of wine to the chocolate covered almonds placed around the room, even the bath and personal products – bath oils, aromatherapy candles, manicure, shaving and intimacy kits – a full compliment of less common items chosen with care. The rooms are equipped with Bose speakers, convenient charging stations and built-in flat screen TVs in the bed and bathrooms, along with plastic wine glasses placed by the soaking tub - because the Auberge knows you’re going to want to safely sip your vintage.
The grounds of the Auberge du Soleil are equally blissful. The saltwater pool and canopied cabanas perched on the hillside exude luxury and a sexy flair reserved for adults-only. Tucked away in a secluded area, a Japanese ryokan-style yoga pavilion overlooks an outdoor sculpture garden and walking paths. After an early day touring some of the local Rutherford wineries, we spent the late afternoon lounging at the Auberge Spa, a rejuvenating experience in the Scandinavian-style circuit of outdoor hot and cold plunge pools.
Napa’s “Inn of the Sun” lives up to its name. It offers excellent sunset views with its world-renowned restaurant arguably offering the best vantage point in the valley. A culinary destination in itself, the Auberge du Soleil restaurant, which just received its 12th consecutive Michelin Star, offers a Mediterranean-infused menu based largely on local ingredients and to say its wine list is extensive is an understatement. With a cellar housing over 15,000 local and international wines, let’s just say we were happy to have the guidance of our friendly sommelier. We settled for the Grgich Hills 2014 Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay, in honour of the Chateau Montelena that won the 1976 Judgement of Paris that put Napa on the map, then moved on to a local Cabernet Sauvignon produced by a former Auberge employee turned winemaker, which paired perfectly with sugar plum and pistachio foie gras and grilled Wagu beef: a culinary experience for the books. And the service at the Auberge is spot on. The inviting and genuine staff leave everything pretentious at the door, all the while leaving you feeling like royalty.
A truly spectacular place to say, the Auberge du Soleil exceeded our expectations in every way. It is the perfect place for a proposal, milestone celebration, group incentive retreat or just a wine-indulgent getaway. For us, a weekend at the romantic Auberge du Soleil was the complete luxury retreat and exquisite taste of what Napa Valley has to offer.
If you’re thinking about a trip to wine country now is a great time to go. After the recent devastating fires, the county could use our support. So keep buying Napa wine, plan a trip to the region or send a donation to Napa Valley Community Foundation.