What could be better than a revamped inn with house-made meals and exceptional hospitality?
Words by ANDREW BARKER
Milliken Creek Inn, Napa
Milliken Creek Inn overlooking the Napa River.
This historic inn started life in the mid-1850s, when travelers during the Gold and Silver Rush would make a rest stop by this clean and accessible stretch of the Napa River along the Silverado Trail. Around the end of that century, horticulturst Ira McKenzie took up residence and planted the saplings of the Japanese maples, live oaks and magnolias which now tower over the main house’s gables and chimney. The trees mingle with the ferns and other shrubs in the lush, almost Edenic gardens, with a lawn leading right up to the bank of the river where you can lie on a lounger and blissfully watch the waters flow on by.
“The trees mingle with the ferns in the almost Edenic gardens, with a lawn leading right up to the bank of the river where you can lie on a lounger and blissfully watch the waters flow on by.”
The Harper Suite.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the house returned to its roots as an inn. It was eventually renamed Milliken Creek Inn, and in 2013 it became part of the Four Sisters Inns collection. Fresh from a renovation this year, all rooms now boast king beds, the majority with luxury linens, fireplaces, deep soaking tubs and private decks with firepits — some overlooking the river. No spot is better for a made-to-order breakfast in bed; it comes complimentary, as do freshly baked cookies, and s’mores kits for some late-night indulgence under the stars. 1815 Silverado Trail, Napa, 707-255-1197; millikencreekinn.com.
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Farmhouse Inn, Forestville
An aerial view of the Farmhouse Inn.
Wine country has a new temple to all things rest and relaxation in the form of the Wellness Barn at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, Sonoma County (which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year). Set among the olive trees and surrounded by forest, this luxurious take on a barn has nothing to do with hay bales. In their place you will find three treatment rooms housed in a 3,000-square-foot open-air structure with wide shutters, stable doors and custom equestrian drawings. The range of holistic treatments inspired by the Russian River Valley includes a massage with warm basalt stones and cool gemstones; a sensory treatment with Pacific sea-salt exfoliation, wild mustard seeds, purifying clays and coastal redwood mists; and the Spirit Path experience, which features healing quartz sound therapy, energy balancing and meridian-point massage. Many of the herbs and botanicals used in the treatments are grown on the verdant 10-acre property, including passionflower, lavender and sage.
“The range of holistic treatments inspired by the Russian River Valley includes a massage with warm basalt stones and cool gemstones.”
A King Deluxe suite.
As for the inn itself, the 25 rooms and suites are rustic-modern, many with four-poster beds, stone fireplaces and jet tubs, and some even have their own private sauna and balconies. The restaurant —which has earned a Michelin star most of the years it’s been open —makes use of many ingredients from the ranch of siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, fifth-generation farmers who also happen to own the Farmhouse Inn. Alongside their in-house concierges, no one is better placed to advise on a day of barrel tastings, reservations and getting to know the valley inside and out. 7871 River Rd., Forestville, 800-464-6642; farmhouseinn.com.
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Zaca Creek, Buellton
Six guest suites sit in the shade of oak trees. Michelle Ramirez Photography.
Set in the fertile Santa Ynez Valley, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country, Zaca Creek has re-emerged after being closed for two decades. At The Inn, this rustic, rural retreat boasts six guest suites, each with its own individual character, where natural materials abound, from the antique hand-carved headboards to the hand-troweled stone walls. Suites contain king or double queen beds, as well as rainfall showers, soaking tubs or sometimes both. They sit in the shade of the property’s oak trees, with views of the nearby cattle ranch and San Rafael Mountains. Guests receive exclusive use of The Falls, an on-property lagoon with a waterfall and cabanas.
“Natural materials abound, from the antique hand-carved headboards to the hand-troweled stone walls.”
The pool at The Inn at Zaca Creek. Lena Britt Photography.
When you are done swimming and wine tasting (there are 120 wineries within a 400-mile radius), there is the on-site restaurant The Tavern to refuel at, a former saloon where you could tie your horse and head inside for a bourbon. Now, under executive chef Cullen Campbell, the scene inside couldn’t be more different, apart from the original wooden bar top. On the menu are wagyu beef and house-made pastas, fresh seafood from the nearby coast and organic fruit and vegetables. (Don’t miss the barbecued Winfield Farm Mangalitsa pork collar and ahi crudo with Cara Cara oranges). 1297 Jonata Park Rd., Buellton, 805-688-2412; zaca-creek.com.
Feature image: The entrance to The Buellhouse at Zaca Creek. Lena Britt Photography.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021-2022 issue of C Magazine.
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