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Romance Redux

Last week in this space, I professed to know not much about romance. But writing that column got me to thinking about my favorite pastimes in wine country, it turns out many of them—okay all except golf and pub-crawling—could be considered romantic. So I thought, I want to share another idea of a perfect excursion for romance. But lest you get the wrong idea, dear reader, believe me, it’s not me who’s romantic. It’s the place.
This occurred to me just recently during a winter weekend in Carneros, the low-lying appellation that traverses both Napa and Sonoma counties. With a light rain falling, my wife and I drove north from San Francisco toward wine country. The days still short, night was falling along with the rain. Remarkable how fast our moods changed, from unconsciously tense due to the bustle of the city, to noticeably at ease as we slid past the gently rolling hills of Napa Valley. It was time to check in for a little R&R and time to check out of reality for a weekend.

After an initial and all-too-brief visit to the Carneros Inn (4048 Sonoma Hwy; 707-299-4900; last year, I was eager to return and see what had developed in the many months that had passed. What we discovered was a location that quickly jumped to the top of my Most Romantic List. This is a place that you ease into like a comfortable chair at the end of a long day’s work. With its gracious welcoming “house” set atop a hill and meandered around by lazing horses and grazing cows, the feeling is at once rustic and impossibly chic. It’s all clean lines and smooth surfaces, outfitted in bold fabrics that perfectly accent the otherwise understated elegance.

From a knowing greeting by the well-trained staff to the first glimpse of your own private cottage, the Inn imparts a sense of place—like home away from home, without all the tension and drama. The casual elegance of each cottage is ideal for a couple’s romantic getaway, imparting a sense of privacy without feeling detached. But the best parts are the little things—little things like outdoor showers that, I promise you, will have you strongly considering tearing the roof off your bathroom at home. The sensation of showering outdoors (while completely private, of course) is worth the price of admission.

Still, don’t spend all your time there. If you can peel away from the luxurious bed linens and wood-burning fireplace in your room, head down toward the recently opened onsite restaurant, Farm (707-299-4880).

I’ll admit to a hint of pre-determined partiality here because of the name. But all it took was a couple minutes sitting on the expansive indoor/outdoor patio in front of the modernly interpreted fireplace and I no longer needed to use the name as an excuse. Everything is right here, from the relaxed neighborly ambiance to the sophisticated, but approachable fare. Farm compliments the Carneros Inn’s less-splashy, but no less charming restaurant, Boon Fly Café, by turning up the urbanity quotient to just the right levels. Both places offer comfortable atmospheres in which to enjoy food prepared with fresh ingredients and paired with local wines. An easy stroll from your cozy cottage, an evening at either establishment offers the perfect romantic wine country escape. When you throw in a visit to the property’s spa, you’ve got the makings of a fully self-contained weekend for two that requires little more than strolling the grounds from one place to another to be treated well and to live in the lap of the kind of understated luxury you can only find in wine country. For my money, that’s the true definition of romance.

Exclusive Experience at Carneros Inn