Review: Hotel Villagio, Napa Valley | Sleeper
Published by Sleeper, May 2019
It is not supposed to rain in California. At least that’s what you’re led to believe in childhood thanks to years of TV and internet indoctrination. And yet here we are in February (winter, admittedly) staring at our iPhone screens with the kind of disbelief normally reserved for people who like Marmite. Because if we believe what we’re seeing, it will rain torrentially every single hour we are in Yountville. Normally the kind of information that could send you over the edge during a two-day trip, fortunately we tucked into some reserves of classic British stoicism and looked on the bright side. There are worse places to be stuck during a storm than wine country, after all.
The fact that we were staying at Napa Valley’s newest luxury offering, Hotel Villagio — an integral facet of the multi-million dollar renovation at The Estate Yountville, alongside sister hotel Vintage House— also helped. A laid-back, glamorous affair located in the heart of the Valley, it’s a project that brought together SB Architects and Hersch Bedner Associates with the sole aim of developing a space that resonates with the vibrant heritage of the area’s past while simultaneously making a bold statement about its future intentions — Californian wines no longer exist in the shadow of their European competitors, and Hotel Villagio, set among 22 acres of verdant land, emanates the prestige to prove it.
In truth, this movement towards forging a unique Californian identity has been decades in the making. Arguably, it began as far back as 1976 during the famed ‘Judgement of Paris’, when a group of French judges undertook a series of blind tastings and instead of bestowing top honours to the predicted French competitors, tipped the scale in favour of a California white and red. It was a major shock — and turning point — in the industry, one that went on to facilitate the globalisation of wine, and to cement California as a leading producer in its own right — new vineyards popped up like daisies in the aftermath.
These days, there’s no doubt that the region packs just as much clout as its European counterparts, and with the increase in large-scale, luxury developments like the properties at The Estate Yountville, that’s becoming ever more clear. “The aim was to focus on California as its own top-rated wine region,” explains Kathleen Dauber, partner at HBA Los Angeles. “The days of invoking France or Italy is over — California celebrates its own style, and Hotel Villagio reflects that.”
Indeed, there is something distinctly Californian about this property. It’s palpable in the enthusiastic greeting you receive at the door; in the easygoing vibe of communal spaces; and in the social undercurrent that weaves through each and every part of the hotel — there is no stuffiness here, just a quintessential Californian welcome and a big smile to boot. “For us, it was important to create a space where guests could gather and socialise,” continues Dauber. “We wanted a hotel with a heart — to make something that was welcomed by the community.”
It makes sense, then, that the lobby is the hotel’s crowning glory. A vast, beamed room with huge floor-to-ceilings windows, it’s sharp but without pretension, taking advantage of its natural surroundings by inviting the outside in. The result is a carefree atmosphere that rests heavily on the unique synergy between colour, material and form. “We worked very specifically with finishes that were rich and textured,” Dauber says. “Nothing fake or imitated, just quality from selection to installation.” So warm woods are juxtaposed by dark stone, and industrial-inspired, statement lighting by Jonathan Browning provides drama. It extends to the tactile appeal of the sofas and chairs, too. A mish-mash of Organic Modernism, Lily Jack, Royal Custom and Bassam Fellows, they invite you to perch fireside while stoking up a board game with a bunch of new friends.
The Bar at Hotel Villagio, set within the lobby, is another spirited meeting point for guests and locals. With vistas overlooking the resort’s private vineyard, craft cocktails made using flowers from the onsite beverage herb garden, and the sleek James Perse pool table, it does a solid job of convincing people to stick around. That’s if they’re not lured outside by the promise of sunshine (when it arrives) and the outdoor pool and hot tub, or by the intoxicating scent of wellness emanating from The Spa at The Estate.
Meanwhile, each of the 122 rooms and 22 suites also co-exist in a state of industrial-rustic unison, effortlessly conveying a sense of relaxed masculinity. “Strong, contemporary elements were brought into the interiors,” confirms Dauber. “Natural wood — both painted and exposed — creates focus and is contrasted by clean painted wall planes.” Evidently, there’s a simplicity to the canvas, but this is brought alive by a rich tapestry of textures, colour and structure. Leather, velvet and mahogany are accented with hand-knotted rugs, open-fronted iron closets, and bronze, branch-design ceiling fixtures. “We wanted the rooms to feel like an extension of someone’s home,” concludes Dauber. “Somewhere you know that you will have a great time.” A sentiment confirmed while sipping wine in front of the crackling, in-room log fire.
The bathrooms, too, are statements all on their own. Much like the rest of the hotel, they were totally restructured, so there’s now oodles of space for flouncing around in the soft, white robes provided. Drawing inspiration from the elemental, they’re finished with white carrara marble by Emser Tile and floating concrete slab double sinks. Nevertheless, it’s the clear glass shower enclosure and freestanding bathtub — both big enough for a small elephant — that really grab the attention. Again, these rooms speak of subtly organic elegance, confidently blurring the lines between interior and exterior.
Typically, the sun reappears in the hours before we leave, but it’s great to see guests spilling out onto the lobby’s adjoining alfresco terrace. A bustling hive of activity, it’s overlooked by specially commissioned artwork (overseen by Canvas art consultants) that depicts the early founders and influencers of Napa Valley. It’s a fitting tribute to a legacy that’s done so much for the area, and an inspiring assurance of the fruitful years to come.