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by Erika Lenkert



Napa’s Hippest Resort

The Carneros Inn

Last week I did what every mother should do on a reasonably regular basis: escaped with a girlfriend for an evening of pampering, dining, and gossip. While virtually any destination with a spa, restaurant, and room with fluffy robes and a big TV can do the revitalizing trick, a visit to The Carneros Inn proved that there is no better Napa Valley getaway for making a mommy feel youthful, fresh, and dialed into a fabulous scene.

Located on 27 rural acres at Napa's southern gateway, the low-slung resort with 86 freestanding contemporary cottages, three restaurants, a pool, spa, and exercise facilities was sprawling when it opened several years ago. But recent additions have made the place even more expansive and self-contained with enough attractions and style to make me feel as though I was transported to the tiny posh town of Aspen during summertime.

Its guest accommodations, which are arranged like mini neighborhoods surrounding grassy center squares, look farmhouse chic and very lush with landscaping from the exterior and flat-out contemporary fabulous from within. Adorned with Brazilian cherry wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and chic furnishings including Le Corbustier chase lounges, and equipped with a wood burning fireplaces, giant showers with curiously positioned showerheads, and private patio gardens with outdoor showers, they are so hi-tech they require a page of instructions for operating its amenities, including the private patio's heater, plasma TV, DVD/CD player, and complimentary high-speed internet service.

While the outdoor chaises and fluffy bed could easily cajole a mommy never to leave the room, it's only a short walk to the giant outdoor pool, which appears as if it's plunked down directly in the middle of vineyards and pasture that stretch as far as the eye can see. Next door, the spa beckons, and I obliged its call with a warm goat's butter massage, which was average but beat the heck out of a day of laundry or deadlines.

Most awe inspiring were the newest developments, including 24 new luxury homes and the enormous and very glamorous FARM restaurant. Located along a new "civic area" designed to cater to Carneros district residents with a post office, market, and enough alfresco tables and chairs to seat the whole community, the interior is giant and dazzling with a large backlit back-bar that changes color throughout the evening, clear table lamps dangling overhead, oversize everything, and an extremely cosmopolitan vibe. It's no surprise that the crowd here looks like they flew in from L.A. for the weekend to sip flavored martinis and schmooze.

As the name might suggest FARM focuses on organic, local, seasonal ingredients with menu highlights that include adequate appetizers and superior entrees, such as a wonderful mesquite grilled halibut with roasted red and purple potatoes, grilled asparagus, green garlic and Acolone olives for fish lovers and a gorgeous strip loin with red potato puree, Romano beans and roasted garlic Cabernet sauce for meat mavens. Enhancing the evening is the shockingly well-priced wine list and a finale Mason jar of mascarpone and coffee, which is essentially a country crock of tiramisu.

Afterward, it's a quick stroll back to the room and into bed to take advantage of the free lounge time, and in the morning a leisurely breakfast at the property's rural-chic Boon Fly Café before returning to the daily grind.

Personally, I don't have any qualms about pampering myself with a luxury stay from time to time, but anyone who feels a little guilty about indulgence may rest easier knowing that the whole resort was designed in accordance with environmental best practices, including water recycling technology, geo-thermal heating and cooling systems—yet another trendy element of Napa Valley's hippest home away from home.

The Carneros Inn
4048 Sonoma Highway
Napa, CA 94559
707-299-4900 or 888-400-9000
www.thecarnerosinn.com

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