I still dream of , and so will you.
Everyone has their reasons for visiting Napa Valley. For some it’s to taste (and spit out) rare and delicious “cabs,” “pinots” and, yes, even merlots. (Sorry to Paul Giamatti’s merlot-hating character in Sideways, but he’s wrong.) For others, it’s to make a pilgrimage to , chef Thomas Keller’s perennially triple-Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountsville, which put the region on the map as a culinary destination. (My wife, Kate, and I went and because I’d like to keep this story 100% positive, I’ll abstain from commenting on our meal.) And then there are the wild-card visitors who plan a romantic bagged lunch at Lake Berryesa, not just to enjoy the picturesque, littoral setting, but also to visit the site where Bryan Hartnell and Cecilia Ann Shepard were stabbed by the Zodiac Killer in 1969. The luckiest of us figure out a way to do it all, and the best of us stay at Meadowood.
To celebrate this past April, Kate and I took off a Thursday and Friday (you'd only need to use up one vacation day for a Memorial Day visit) and headed westward to escape the din of our busy New York City lives. In theory and practice, three nights turned out to be the perfect allotment of time to relax and recharge, but I won’t address the emotional barbed-wire-wrapped-baseball-bat to the face you receive around the time you drop off your rental car at San Francisco International. I’m still very upset we left, and it’s mainly because of the hotel.
Arriving at Meadowood, an expansive property made up of 99 decentralized rooms, distributed over 250 secluded acres in St. Helena, is like driving into a forest of unicorns galloping alongside golf carts—a magical place of mythical beauty and shuttle-service conveniences. Once you pass the friendly wave from the security guard at the entrance, you enter a verdant world of chirping birds, restaurants (one the Michelin guide inspectors seemed to like), pools, a spa, tennis and croquet courts, and what I’m told is a very good golf course. It’s a luxury compound that emphasizes restraint—speak softly and carry a nine-iron.
Here are five reasons you owe it to yourself and your lover to spring for Meadowood for Memorial Day Weekend.
We booked a Treeline suite, which is a collection of cozy apartments, elevated in every sense of the word. The room design is a tranquil mix of traditional and modern elements with a muted, earthy color palette. It’s one of those spaces where you walk around and point to things with your wife and say, “I cannot wait to use this!” but never get around to it. The wood-burning fireplace and giant tub immediately come to mind.
The Restaurant at Meadowood boasts three Michelin stars, which in my experience ain’t worth a hill of beans most of the time, but here it has meaning. The food, service, and moody ambiance are wonderful, but the antechamber to the dining room is where I’d suggest going for a romantic drink with your companion. The cocktail menu is as extensive and appetizing as any high-end bar in New York City or London. The Coriander Gimlet was delicious and after a tight schedule of wine tastings and Zodiac Killer hunting, it was the perfect way to end the day. Luckily, at Meadowood, there's always someone driving around in a golf cart to transport you back to your room safely.
Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day at Meadowood. I’ve always heard that the produce and meats in Napa Valley are so fresh that even high-cholesterol dishes like Eggs Benedict might leave you feeling light and healthy. Whatever you order for breakfast at The Grill, it is compulsory that you try the homemade English Muffins. It's certainly not Thomas’s—the taste is so rapturous, I’d classify it as a platonic ideal. Add a light smearing of apple butter and you’ll become an addict.
I’ve had a massage or two in my life, but nothing like this. Kate and I had a couples “Essential Journey” treatment which is a full body-and-soul cleansing. Before you’re face-down on a massage bed, there are some rites of passage to complete, which include time alone together in a steam shower; a brief, low-volume chat with your masseur; and writing a word on a stone in Sharpie and keeping it with you. (Kate wrote “Relax” while I wrote “Crack”—like the sound your back makes during a massage, not like a literal crack rock.) Once that's finished, the next 60 minutes of full-body rubbing are so exquisitely relaxing that if a murderous lunatic burst into the room wielding an ice-pick, you wouldn't be able to move ... nor would you care.
Kate and I were married at an estate outside Boston designed by H.H. Richardson with grounds by Frederick Law Olmsted, so we know how important it is for affianced couples to search far and wide for the perfect venue. Meadowood, with its 250 acres of hiking trails, masterful landscaping, luxurious lodging, and world-class service, is all kinds of perfect. Just ask former Yankee Derek Jeter, who married his model wife Hannah there in 2016.