California Travel Articles
Meadowood Napa Valley - Nestled On The Hillside Of The Lush Napa Valley
To reach Meadowood, east of St Helena in California's Napa Valley, you turn off the Silverado Trail, through vineyards to the resort's 250 wooded acres. There are 85 all-wood villas, putty colored with white highlights.
At the main two-floor reception lodge, a cheery young man offered lemonade or iced tea. He then escorted us past seven tennis courts and the outdoor pools, one for serious swimming and the other a curvilinear fun pool (there was also a hot tub). The masses of loungers, with umbrellas and towels, are all pristine white.
We went up wooden outdoor steps to Villa 33, in the 'Hideaway' area. Inside, the one-room villa had a sage carpet, with a small foyer area with stone flooring. Walls, and the open cathedral-type ceiling, were white, as were the fabric blinds at the ten windows and the acres of damask-striped white sheeting on the bed, which had a heavy curved wood bedhead. A real-log fire, beautifully laid, came with fire tongs, and long matches. There was a coffee machine, with Metropolitan sachets and Portmeiron's floral Botanic Garden china, a safe, iron, umbrellas. Reading material included Robb Report and, not surprisingly, Wine Spectator. WiFi wireless connectivity was one of the quickest in the industry.
I walked down to the gym, an airy trio of three rooms above the spa - it had bowls of apples, bananas and oranges. After a few laps in the serious pool I went back home, for a Molton Brown shower in my all-white bathroom, with a brilliant skylight that gave in even more daylight. There was a personalised invitation waiting for the regular Friday night wine tasting. Tonight, pouring wines were 2004 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, 2003 Monticello Pinot Noir and 2001 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs - this took place back in the reception lounge, with lots of snacks and a mature pianist in a beret. But we had another invitation, from the youthful veteran Stan Bromley who, have officially retired from Four Seasons, seems to be helping out his friend Bill Harlan (managing partner of Meadowood) by running this place. Wearing a pink striped open-necked shirt, the nedar-shaved head Bromley held court at a white linen-covered table on the Grill terrace, overlooking golf and the croquet lawns, and a barman skilfully opened a bottle of J Schram sparkling 1999.
Later, at dinner at that same table, we watched the final croquet round. Above the tall-pines and other trees, the sky was vivid orange and blues, like marble, then swiftly into greys and darkness. Tables were set with little purple Sweet William plants in terracotta pots. Chef Vincent Nattress, a really lovely man who personally seemed to welcome all guests, sent out a starter of Sterling Caviar from farmed white sturgeon from Stolt Sea Farm in Sacramento, with potato crisps, herbed sour cream and egg yolk and white. Bread was thick sourdough slices, in a linen-lined metal pot. The Meadowood salad was a mountain of mini-greens, with baby beets and blood-orange oil.
The short ribs fell off the bone - they came with a celery purée and greens, and went pretty well with Honeycut Zinfandel 2003 from a giant decanter. Sommelier Michael Scherzberg, diverted from engineering at MIT, is an encyclopedia of what is going on in Napa (look out for Mark Herold's wines, he suggested - he is winemaker for Merus, Buccella, Harns Estate, Heston Estate, Cobalt Estate and Cayman). He showed us the 94-page list he is preparing for the gourmet restaurant, about to re-open.
We walked back to find all the white fabric blinds pulled down and we had tomorrow's Meadwood Journal schedule neatly printed, plus two wrapped home-made cookies and a bookmark that said 'Good wine is a necessity of life for me (Thomas Jefferson)'. In the morning it was a typical Napa mist, and grey. I did a power walk up some of the well-marked mountain hiking routes, finished off in the gym - nearly full, as this is a venue for the fit who want to be fitter. Back up at The Grill, breakfast - all à la carte - included a Meadowood omelette (choose whatever you want to go in it, from caramelized onions to potatoes) but we went for berries, a concentric artistic display, and six inch croissant that had been split and lightly toasted.
Before leaving, we were invited to tour the adjacent 80-acre Napa Valley Reserve vineyard-club, Bill Harlan's 'golf club without golf'. 284 invited members have their 'own' vines, which they can visit and talk to, and there is a simply beautiful two-floor club house, with two dining rooms - one with giant professional open kitchen - where they can entertain. What else do they get for their $145,000 initiation (80% returned, whenever) plus an average $10,000 a year? They get bottles of 'their' wine, produced by the Harlan Estate winemaker with their own label, and every two weeks there is the highest-caliber networking and educational dinner. You will be able to store your (other) wines in the amazing cellar, and you get heavy discounts on Meadowood villas. And then we were on our way.
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