We just came back from a fabulous (and frugal) trip to California wine country. Our original plan was to spend a few nights in Mendocino and completely pass on Napa and Sonoma. Not because we don’t love Napa and Sonoma, but we wanted to break out of the same route rut (and we were on a California Pinot hunt).
It was a gorgeous ride up from San Fran, during which we nurtured hardcore fantasies of hitting our hotel, sliding into the bath, gazing out on a setting Pacific sunset, and … we’ll leave the rest to your imagination. To our dismay, we arrived in Mendocino to dense, deep, dark fog. We decided that one night in Mendocino would be just terrific and two, well, a tad too gray. We needed to move.
You’ll find a whole section in our upcoming book on scoping out great hotel deals. We look for hotels that are “soft” opening or very recently opened. Hotels with promise, snagged before the way-cooler-than-us set moves in and glitterati pricing makes them unaffordable. We are expert. Way, way back, we stayed at the Montalembert in Paris during opening week (the original Parisian Boutique Hotel with Christian Liagre designing furnishings—it still rocks). Recently in NYC (a ghastly expensive hotel destination for anyone, let alone a bitch on a budget) we stayed at the Thompson LES during soft opening. Paid a quarter of the current ask! Of course, one day the elevator didn’t work, another the hot water—although with a little sweet bitching they comped part of our stay (we’re working up a post on how to write ‘loving’ mail to get what you deserve).
One way to stay on top of what’s new in town is to read the local mags. Hotel public relations machines are in overdrive during opening, and we’d read something in “San Francisco Magazine” about the Bardessono in Yountville.
Sitting in the dark confines of our Mendocino room we remembered the article. Back and forth, to stay or not to stay, became the question. Then we fell back on our motto—life is short, time is a non-renewable resource, and this trip was all about our being more flexible b’s. We called and found they had one room left at the happy price of $199 dollars. (It was just meant to be.)
Yountville. Ring a bell? The town was put on the foodie capital of the world map by Thomas Keller. French Laundry is his original Yountville place, and it’s harder to score a reservation at this restaurant than to be elected President—well, almost. We’ll leave a detailed discussion of French Laundry for another day, but we do think his new-ish fixed price, fixed menu restaurant Ad Hoc rocks; and we salivate over his Bouchon Bakery’s Cheese Danish’y thing. (OMG! –although if you’re a NYC bitch—or just passing through—you can go to the Time Warner Center and get one at his bakery there.)
We digress. We’ve been to Yountville many times, but it never seemed the place to stay. Just the place to eat. That’s all 100 percent completely changed because of the Bardessono.
A gorgeous hotel. So cool. So fun. So sleekly sexy and romantic (remember our bathtub fantasy from Mendocino?) This was a modern and spacious gem; and they were so nice we wished we could have stayed a week. A magnificent rooftop pool, bicycles to borrow, all for free. A lovely spa. They told us you could even come just for lunch and hang out at the pool all day. Anyways, this hipster place is within walking distance of so many great places to eat and a short drive by car, or flat ride by bike (hello, it’s Napa Valley), to some of the greatest wineries in America.
To be perfectly honest, our scampering was a little hasty. The day we left Mendocino turned out clear and magnificent. The town was to-die-for cute and charming and hippie-ish. We took a long walk along the ocean and watched people diving for sea urchins (fresh, one of our faves) and wandered into one of the best independent bookstores we’ve ever been into, The Main Street Book Shop.
Still, we don’t feel too bad. The way we see it: the drive to Mendocino on that magnificent coastline was stunning. We drank great California Pinots in the Anderson Valley. We found what could become one of our go-to hotels in Napa. We snarfed down those warm cheese pastries first thing in the morning on our way to the airport. And all because we were so flexible!