By Lexi Costello, Travel Correspondent
Sophisticated Inn with Mediterranean Influence
Johannes scurries in and out of the kitchen, balancing more plates in his arms than a man should carry at one time. Now it’s sugar-dusted danishes, now it’s spinach frittatas. A breakfast-time whirling dervish, he pauses only to rattle off a list of exotic juices to guests or chide his young granddaughter, who’s visiting from Germany. Clad in his customary crisp white apron over a clean, tailored shirt, the Austrian-born innkeeper of the Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa frees himself from the fray long enough to bound into the lobby to answer a couple's question about horseback-riding excursions, but before long he’s back and toting a basket of fresh-baked scones.
The same familial service overflows into the Villa’s Junior suites and Deluxe villa rooms, where guests can relish private dinners often crafted using produce from on-site vegetable gardens. Echoing the building’s Mediterranean exterior, the spacious suites are equipped with Italian slate floors, which are enhanced with radiant heating to combat the chill of blustery Bodega nights. Extending from knotted pine walls, california-king beds face wood-burning fireplaces flanked by paneled windows overlooking the gardens just outside. By the time the stars light up the Russian River Valley sky, the villa has become as still and quiet as a wax statue of Jerry Lewis.
Leisurely mornings kick off with a soothing rinse in the suites' marble walk-in showers, followed by a stroll along the 60-acre property. Oak wine barrels and vintage flower pots line stone walkways leading from the guest rooms to a full-service spa, where this Getaways deal includes $20 off any service. As purple, pink, and orange blooms perfume the air, guests recline on the secluded garden hammock or take to the front lawn to relish sweeping views of distant grassy hills populated by grazing cattle.
Bodega, California: Pastoral Valley Nestled in Laid-back Wine Country
Looming over the sandy trails and secluded coves of Sonoma Coast State Beach 6 miles west of the hotel, the beachfront cliff known as Bodega Head unveils panoramic views of the ocean from its craggy promontory. As photographers negotiate tripod space, focusing their attention west, a cluster of birdwatchers spots a pair of whales frolicking to the south. From Bodega Head, a roughly 3-mile coastal drive past sprays of poppies, daisies, and paintbrush flowers brings travelers to Bodega Bay's Terrapin Creek Café, a casual, gourmet eatery serving buttery toasted sandwiches and fresh seafood entrees.
Sonoma County is peppered with a host of wineries, enchanting sippers with a potpourri of vintage appellations and cuvees. Situated less than 20 miles from the Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa, DeLoach Vineyards pours pinot noirs, chardonnays, and zinfandels during refreshingly casual tastings. Helming one end of the wood-paneled bar, Judi regales patrons with clever quips in between poetic descriptions of the featured varietals. Guests can also sample the fruits of the estate in DeLoach's private courtyard, embellished with café tables, a wood-burning fireplace, and a sculpture carved from a tree.
Perched on the Point Reyes National Seashore 35 miles north of the inn, Drakes Bay Oyster Company's farm produces much of the state’s oysters, using advanced hatchery techniques to enhance sustainability. Visitors can take tours by appointment to learn how hand-planted oyster seeds develop to maturity, or guests can simply pick up a cooler full of bivalves in assorted sizes, along with lemon wedges, drawn butter, and hot sauce. Outside the shucking room, beside the cannery, oyster shells litter the ground around a handful of picnic tables where guests slurp raw oysters while enjoying views of bustling farm workers, oyster stringers, and the picturesque Drakes Bay.