Follow Thomas Keller’s Haute Road To Enchantment

Previous PostHaute Secrets: Boston's Top Chef Michael Schlow
Next PostRumer Willis Parties at Encore Beach Club
Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller

Photo Credit: Deborah Jones

What do you do when you’re in the mood to drive somewhere but don’t feel like planning the trip? We suggest following Thomas Keller‘s Route du Bonheur, or Road to Enchantment, through California’s wine country, which the owner and three-Michelin starred chef of The French Laundry put together for Relais & Châteaux. His itinerary was created to inspire you but also for you to make your own adaptations, which we did. We must say, the chef knows how to pick some haute spots.

Hotel Les Mars

Hotel Les Mars
Hotel Les Mars

Photo Credit: Courtesy Hotel Les Mars

As Keller suggests, our first stop was at the oh-so-elegant Hotel Les Mars, perfectly perched just off the historic Town Plaza in Healdsburg. Opened by the Mars family in 2005, it is now owned by winery magnate Bill Foley. This luxurious, French maison-style hotel oozes European charm with 16 roomy guest rooms that are all individually-decorated but all furnished with 17th and 18th century antiques, hand-carved, artisan beds covered with Versai linens and gas-burning fireplaces. If you love bathrooms like we do then you’ll swoon over the marble baths at Hotel Les Mars, which have spacious showers big enough for two and spa tubs. Fresh flowers in the room, complimentary French breakfasts and daily wine and cheese receptions in the walnut-paneled library are some of the extra touches you’ll appreciate as well. Trust us, the very-personable general manager, Brian Sommer, will ensure your stay is up to your expectations. Hotel Les Mars gets bonus points for being pet-friendly. Expect to pay a non-refundable pet cleaning fee of $150 [excessive cleaning or damage will result in additional charges] if you bring your furry friend. Pets of any size are welcome, but must be crated if you leave them alone in the room for any reason. Just a few steps from the hotel is Fideaux, our fave pet boutique in wine country [there’s also an outpost in St. Helena] and where the owner Erin Morris will provide welcome amenities, French bowls, doggie mats and beds to four-legged guests at Hotel Les Mars, if needed.

Chalk Board Bistro & SHED

Pork belly biscuits at Chalkboard
Pork belly biscuits at Chalkboard

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter
Hotel Les Mars also has a fabulous dining option. As much as we still miss Cyrus, Douglas Keane’s Michelin-starred restaurant that was shuttered a few years ago, we absolutely love, love, love its replacement, Chalkboard, an upscale casual bistro where you’ll go ga-ga over the small shared plates, cocktails and wine flights offered in a lively atmosphere. The pork belly biscuits are a must! Also just a few feet away is SHED, a café that brings together all of the elements the husband and wife owners Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel believe in: responsible farming, ingredient-driven cooking and flavorful food. Dining outside, overlooking the creek, is a memorable experience although we think you’ll be just as happy with a seat at the community table or the counter at this airy, two-story eatery that won a James Beard Award in 2014 for its architecture and features an open kitchen and wood-burning oven. Both make our list of best Healdsburg restaurants to refuel in after a day of wine tasting.

Lancaster Estate

Lancaster Winery
Lancaster Estate

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

With more than 100 wineries within 20 miles of Hotel Les Mars, you’ll have no problem finding several to your liking. We visited Lancaster Estate, which Foley added to his humongous wine portfolio in the fall of 2012. Located in the southernmost tip of Alexander Valley, Lancaster Estate is dedicated to limited release Bordeaux-styled wines that are grown, produced and bottled from 53 estate acres, micro-farmed in small vineyard blocks, each with its own expression of the terroir. Book the estate tour and tasting experience that will take you on a tour of the vineyards, production facility and naturally cooling wine caves followed by a seated educational tasting of four of the estate wines.

Meadowood Napa Valley

Arrive in style to Meadowood Napa Valley
Arrive in style to Meadowood Napa Valley in a BMW 650i

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

From Hotel Les Mars, we took the beautiful drive in our fire-engine red convertible BMW 650i to Meadowood Napa Valley, as Keller suggests for Stage 2 on his Route du Bonheur. This lush retreat, nestled in a 250-acre forest and owned by Bill Harlan, was once a private country club. With its outstanding service, warm staff and friendly guests, Meadowood still has that clubby feel. You’ll find a bevy of activities, including golf, tennis, croquet, hiking and swimming, to keep you busy no matter how long you choose to stay.

Treeline Junior Suite at Meadowood Napa Valley
Treeline Suite at Meadowood Napa Valley

Photo Credit: Courtesy Meadowood Napa Valley

The 85-guest accommodations range from cozy cottages to elegant suites to spacious lodges. We checked into a Treeline Suite, highlighted by French doors, a private, furnished deck, separate living room and roomy bath with a soaking tub for two. A window bench seat was the perfect place to stretch out and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. High rollers will want to opt for the Estate Suite, 2,140 square feet of fabulousness and seclusion.

champagne_meadowood_kelly e carterPhoto Credit: Kelly E. Carter

No stay at Meadowood Napa Valley is complete without a meal at The Restaurant, the three-Michelin starred restaurant where chef Christopher Kostow delights diners nightly. Make sure you arrive early enough to relax with a glass of bubbly in the entry or expanded bar area. Nathaniel Dorn, the affable restaurant director, does a fabulous job making sure diners have the kind of experience that matches Kostow’s creative talents.

The Restaurant at Meadowood
The Restaurant at Meadowood

Photo Credit: Courtesy The Restaurant at Meadowood

Kostow’s dishes are made with many ingredients from Meadowood’s own property. The seasonal prix-fixe menu [$225] is paired with a prize-winning wine list which is explained by the knowledgeable servers. You can enjoy your feast in the elegant dining room or opt for the Counter Menu [$500 per person, inclusive of gratuity], which can be enjoyed either in The Restaurant Kitchen at the Chef’s Counter or in The Restaurant Dining Room. If you’re short on time, there’s also a limited menu available at The Restaurant Bar.

Auberge du Soleil

Auberge du Soleil
Auberge du Soleil

Photo Credit: Trinette Reed Photography

For Stage 3 of his trip, Keller suggests a stay at Auberge du Soleil, which is just a few minutes away from Meadowood Napa Valley yet worlds apart. Step through the doors of this boutique property and you’ll swear you landed in a chic resort in the south of France. What began as merely a fine dining establishment, opened by French-born restaurateur Claude Rouas in 1981, with superb views has turned into a stunning hotel that is a celeb fave.

Auberge du Soleil guestroom
Auberge du Soleil guestroom

Photo Credit: Trinette Reed Photography

Terraced down the hillside with views of the Napa Valley, all accommodations at Auberge du Soleil feature Mediterranean-inspired decor with original contemporary art. The collection of sun- and earth-toned rooms and suites, each feature French doors opening onto private terraces, cozy fireplaces and sensuous elements such as private soaking tubs for two. All of the guest rooms, suites and maison feature Italian linens. For the ultimate in privacy, romance and luxury, book Champagne, one of the two Private Maisons [Loire is the other] and where the French doors lead to a trellised terrace with an outdoor sculptural tub and shower and sweeping views of the Napa Valley.

Auberge du Soleil
Auberge du Soleil

Photo Credit: Trinette Reed Photography

At Auberge du Soleil, be sure to enjoy a cocktail at sunset on the wraparound deck of the Bistro & Bar, where more than 40 wines by the glass are offered, before going to the Restaurant.

Auberge restaurant
Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil

Photo Credit: Trinette Reed Photography

At the Michelin-rated Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, you can count on executive chef Robert Curry’s menu, which highlight the bounty of Napa with house-made ingredients, as well as local produce, tantalizing your tastebuds. Order a la carte or go for the tasting menu; either way, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the fare as much as we did. In addition, here is where you’ll find the largest and most extensive wine list in the Valley. Oenophiles will appreciate that it comes in both electronic and traditional formats. After a nightcap, return to your sanctuary and thank Keller for suggesting this route.

To book this road trip visit www.relaischateaux.com or call 800-735-2478

 

connect with haute living National
Loader