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Travel Tip: Sonoma Hotels

Where to stay in wine country

Augustus Weed
Posted: February 11, 2013

Note: This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2012 issue of Wine Spectator.

Whether you're planning a romantic weekend getaway or a weeklong tasting adventure, choosing the right place to stay in Sonoma can play a big part in defining your experience. Fortunately, Sonoma wine country has much to offer when it comes to lodging, whether you prefer an intimate, secluded inn near the coast or a luxurious full-service hotel with a first-rate spa.

Location is another important consideration; Sonoma is larger and more geographically complex than Napa, and touring one of its many appellations can take more than a day. The town plazas of Healdsburg and Sonoma are good starting points for exploring the surrounding regions. Each town has its own distinct style, but both offer convenient access to tasting rooms, restaurants and nightlife.

13555 Highway 116, Guerneville
Telephone: (800) 555-8509
Website: www.applewoodinn.com
Rooms: 9
Suites: 10
Rates: $165-$375

Hidden among redwoods, this cozy inn will appeal to travelers seeking a woodsy, secluded setting that offers the luxuries of a larger resort as well. Built in 1922 as a vacation home, Applewood is quiet and welcoming, with several Spanish colonial- and Mediterranean-inspired lodges surrounding a central courtyard. Guests can relax by the stone fireplace in the living room of the original Belden House, take a swim in the pool or enjoy the garden, which supplies ingredients for the inn's restaurant. The largest rooms are located in the Piccola Casa & Gate House, and they feature fireplaces, two-person showers or whirlpool tubs, and modern amenities such as Wi-Fi. Be sure to take advantage of the breakfast menu, which includes items such as Grand Marnier french toast and frittatas with chicken apple sausage.

100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma
Telephone: (866) 540-4499
Website: www.fairmont.com/sonoma
Rooms: 166
Suites: 60
Rates: $219-$999

This destination resort, located a short drive from Sonoma Plaza, draws travelers for its natural hot springs and superior service. First-rate amenities include a fitness center and an 18-hole championship golf course. There are three swimming pools fed by a geothermal mineral spring that runs beneath the property, and the soothing water features prominently in the resort's opulent spa—one of the largest and best equipped in wine country. With its main structure built in 1927, the Sonoma Mission Inn resembles a California mission but is modern and sophisticated, with just the right amount of Old World charm. Rooms are smartly done in French country decor, and the baths boast marble and tile. The luxurious suites are located in separate buildings spread around the grounds and feature four-poster beds, fireplaces and two-person whirlpool tubs. Guests can dine at the resort's restaurant, Santé, or sip a drink at the lobby bar.

7871 River Road, Forestville
Telephone: (800) 464-6642
Website: www.farmhouseinn.com
Rooms: 8
Suites: 10
Rates: $345-$795

This charming country inn combines rustic elegance with modern amenities. Guest rooms, spread across the grounds, vary in size and style, and there are eight attached cottages that once housed farmhands. The renovated cottages, each with a private entrance, are sumptuous, offering king-size beds, wood-burning fireplaces and redwood saunas, while rooms in the turn-of-the-century farmhouse set a romantic mood with four-poster beds and large soapstone tubs. For the ultimate retreat, opt for a room in the recently built barn. These spacious suites are the most luxurious on the property, with special touches such as indoor-outdoor fireplaces and whirlpool tubs near windows that open to private patios or decks. The property also features an intimate spa and pool, as well as a not-to-be-missed restaurant called Farmhouse.

219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg
Telephone: (707) 922-5251
Website: www.h2hotel.com
Rooms: 28
Suites: 8
Rates: $195-$565

Hip and eco-friendly, this hotel is the newest addition to Healdsburg and lies a short walk from the town plaza. It provides the same level of service as its more upscale sibling, Hotel Healdsburg, but distinguishes itself with understated elegance and a lively atmosphere that aims to please a trendier crowd. The interior is urban, with a slight edginess that doesn't go overboard. H2 was built to be environmentally friendly, and the green theme is evident in all aspects of its design, from the tables made of reclaimed wood to an undulating "green roof" planted with native California succulents. Rooms are minimalist but elegant, with recycled bamboo-wood floors, custom cabinetry and intimate balconies. On warm evenings, the hotel's modern, casual restaurant, Spoonbar, opens its sliding doors to the street and draws a crowd of locals and travelers with its innovative cocktails.

891 Grove St., Healdsburg
Telephone: (800) 554-4667
Website: www.honormansion.com
Rooms: 5
Suites: 6
Cottages: 2
Rates: $240-$700

Just a few minutes' walk from downtown Healdsburg, this charming inn blends the personal attention of a bed-and-breakfast with the amenities and services of a small resort. The well-manicured grounds feature a flower garden and vineyards, and guests have access to a variety of diversions, including bocce courts, a croquet lawn and a tennis court. Rooms in the inn's Victorian main house are cozy and feature private baths or showers, while the lavish suites are separate from the main house and provide an extra touch of romance with their roomy outdoor soaking tubs, private patios and fireplaces. Biscotti and coffee are delivered to the rooms daily, and a full breakfast buffet is served in the inn's communal room; it can also be taken outdoors on a deck overlooking a koi pond.

25 Matheson St., Healdsburg
Telephone: (800) 889-7188
Website: www.hotelhealdsburg.com
Rooms: 55
Suites: 6
Rates: $295-$820

Stylish, sophisticated and inviting, this hotel is the centerpiece of Healdsburg's thriving downtown. Located on the town plaza, it's just steps away from the many restaurants, shops and tasting rooms that have sprung up around the small but bustling area. The hotel was designed as a contemporary take on the surrounding historic storefronts, with high windows and metal accents. The interior is urban rustic, with grassy courtyards and patios scattered throughout the multistory property, creating an open atmosphere. Guest rooms are handsomely appointed, with distinctive touches such as teak floors, plantation shutters and Tibetan rugs, and the spacious bathrooms feature Italian tiles and oversized soaking tubs. Guests can lounge at the pool lined by cypress and olive trees or relax in style at the lavish spa, which offers a variety of body treatments. The hotel's Dry Creek Kitchen serves locally sourced cuisine by chef Charlie Palmer and boasts a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence-winning wine list.

29 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma
Telephone: (800) 722-1866
Website: www.macarthurplace.com
Rooms: 31
Suites: 31
Cottages: 2
Rates: $199-$750

With its Victorian-style buildings and winding garden paths, MacArthur Place has the feel of a quaint village. Originally a 19th-century ranch, the inn was recently renovated and now boasts modern amenities such as Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, but it has retained its country charm. There is a wide variety of guest rooms from which to choose, each with a different design. Rooms in the original 1850s residence are modest in size but comfortable, while the spacious spa suites feature private gardens with teak soaking tubs. There are also two private cottages. Guests can stroll the manicured grounds, taking in whimsical statues, gazebos and flower gardens, or relax at the spa, which uses ingredients from the inn's herb garden. End the day with dinner at Saddles, the property's steak house and martini bar, housed in a restored barn.

1325 Broadway, Sonoma
Telephone: (866) 263-0758
Website: www.thelodgeatsonoma.com
Rooms: 178
Suites: 2
Cottages: 2
Rates: $209-$489

This modern resort offers first-rate facilities but keeps the fanfare to a minimum. Rooms are understated and spacious, with contemporary country-style decor. Guests can opt to stay in the main lodge, with direct access to the newly renovated lobby, soon to include a wineshop, wine bar and coffeehouse, or in one of the cottages. Cottage rooms offer fireplaces, large soaking tubs and small balconies or patios; some of the bathrooms have privacy screens that can be opened to the bedroom. The verdant 10-acre property is planted with rose bushes and Japanese maples, and statues are placed throughout. An on-site spa provides superior service and uses organic products that are locally produced. Sommelier Christopher Sawyer has built a compelling wine program for the hotel, and its restaurant, Carneros Bistro, holds a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

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