North Block Hotel, # 1 Again, Yountville

One tends to think large lavish hotel properties when thinking of the Napa Valley wine country, after my recent midweek respite, I advise one to rethink their escape plans. Travel & Leisure readers have again confirmed the boutique property, North Block Hotel in Yountville, as Number 1 in their World’s Best Awards survey for best resorts in California.

North Block Hotel lobby, Yountville

Yountville, in the heart of the Napa Valley, is an overlooked gem, a village community off of Hwy 29; per capita, it has more fine dining choices than any of the nearby winery towns. Corner bistros to Michelin starred masterpiece dining, small tasting rooms and all oozing small-town charm. All of the stunning dining options are within walking distance of North Block Hotel! The town was founded by George C. Yount, the first Euro-American permanent settler in Napa Valley. Yount was also the first person to plant grapes in Napa Valley in 1839.

North Block Hotel, Yountville

I happened upon North Block Hotel by accident. Last fall, I savored a hasty Valley visit and on a morning wander, was drawn in by the enchanting Tuscan courtyard with splashing fountains. The sheltered comfy corners with deep seating beckoned for morning coffee and papers, the pool terrace looked picture-perfect!  We peeked in the lobby door and the charming staff invited two unkempt wanderers in for a looksee – doesn’t that say something about a property? Welcome to our home, how can we help? Hiding behind my dark sunglasses, screening the mascara smudges of the previous night, we were invited to take a quick site inspection. Ooh, the perils of roving after just rolling out of the sheets; of course, we ran into the GM, Ty Accornero, he was very welcoming and invited, please come back for a stay. Those who have seen my fancy letter press postcard sized business card with gold edges, would know it doesn’t fit in the pocket of gym shorts. After snail mail thank you with said card enclosed, Ty recognized me when I reached out to visit; oh, the enormous card, yes, I remember you! There are calculated motives for my extravagant distinctive business card! No one knows where to store it, so it sits on desks and I’m never forgotten! It’s not my scintillating personality, it’s my lovely client base and fancy business card which renders me unforgettable!

North Block Hotel Courtyard, Yountville

Months passed, and a mid-pandemic mini-escape was the ideal excuse to wander back to Yountville for an early summer stay. The 20 guestrooms at North Block Hotel are divided into six categories: Premium King with Fireplace, Premium King, Superior King with Fireplace, Deluxe King, Deluxe Queen, and Deluxe Double Queen. All are Mediterranean modern with a yummy coffee and grey palette; sophisticated art adds pops of color. Windows and French doors allow for fresh air and plenty of natural light by day, while plantation shutters provide black out privacy at night, if you are not inclined to wake with first morning light. The rooms are cozy and inviting, the fancy beds are extremely comfy – so snug, the Hotel now sells them, as so many guests begged for the beds!

All rooms feature an espresso machine, television, desk, and small refrigerator. Bathrooms are airy and spacious with heated floors, marble vanities with double sinks, a large soaking tub and a separate rain shower. Many suites boast French doors opening on to balconies overlooking the courtyard or the pool. An upstairs corner suite overlooks the pool and has glorious views of the Mayacamas Mountains with a petite balcony. Mayacamas is believed to have meant “the howl of the mountain lion” in the Wappo tongue. But other possible meanings of the word exist: alternatively, Mayacamas may have meant “the source of the water”, referring to the springs and headwaters of creeks that feed the Napa and Sonoma Rivers. Not on the hotel fact sheet, you also learn local history here as well!

North Block Hotel Suite, Yountville

The arrival sets the stage for your visit – most know, I am a nut on The Arrival!  This is where the magic of escape begins, just one flaw can set the tone for a visit. Make it perfect and a traveler will embrace a hotel property, first impressions do count! The lobby embodies an inviting warm minimalist style with earth tones; and a curious, yet attractive shimmering wall hung with an impressive collection of brass skeleton keys behind the concierge desk. The keys are whimsy, the service is not, it’s friendly and helpful, the staff are all locals who know what to do and where to go. Arrive and receive a welcome glass of bubbly or wine, indulge in a brief sit down, peruse the oversize books and soak in the subtle luxurious touches before moseying through the palm studded courtyard to your chamber. The lobby and courtyard invite lingering, go back for your morning coffee and sit again and take in the inspired design.

Nearby dining: Thomas Keller has four splendid dining palaces within blocks: French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and his latest, La Calenda – offering Mexican Cuisine, Oaxacan style. Toward the south end of town, one of my favorites is the very authentic French Bistro Jeanty – I’ve been dining here for years. Bottega and Coqueta are also within walking distance. The newish RH Restaurant is a North Block neighbor. Park your car and pedal with hotel bikes or walk, everything is within walking distance. Yountville also has a terrific bike store for rentals and the newish nine-mile vine trail is a laidback ride. Hot air balloons can be reserved at sunrise. Or don your Panama hat, mosey to the plunge and plop with a book in a comfy luxe chaise If there was ever a more appropriate summer for delicious ‘beach reads’, it’s now; there should be no shame in idle reading basking by a pool! This is not a summer interrupted with breathtaking views.

North Block is a petite sublime retreat, which feels more like a Mediterranean property, the rooms face lush courtyards open to guests who may uncork a bottle of native California red. It’s cozy and quiet, I saw a small toddler, but it has the feel of an adult resort. The pool has a sound wall that backs up to Hwy 29, a swimmer splashing during laps may be the only background noise.

North Block Hotel, Yountville unique character and chic style

A fine sense of design is an overall arching theme; authentic European heavy wood doors with grated peep holes on entry doors set the stage for the restful rooms and suites.

I spent an entire lazy afternoon at the pool devouring Andre Leon Tally’s astute and canny portrayal of the haute fashion world, an exceptional enviable summertime fancy. Covid-19 has given me more free time to indulge in frothy reading in my garden or sort through mountains of magazines. Time seems to stand still, escape and create some quiet memories.

We can offer exclusive private wine tasting experiences and lunch with local vineyard owners, avoid the crowds and public locations. There is a terrific bike shop a block away, have you ridden the newish Vine Trail ? Nine miles of trails, through neighborhoods and vineyards, eventually it will encompass a 47 mile walking and bike trail connecting the entire Napa Valley.

Yountville is truly an overlooked gem and North Block Hotel is a dazzler, I can’t wait to return!

Hotel Bel Air and Beverly Hills Hotel – Sanity Staycation!

Hungering for human connection and needing fresh outlooks from home gardens, may I suggest the private suites and bungalows at Hotel Bel Air and Beverly Hills Hotel? Let me share a hospitality secret: The Dorchester Collection properties are one of the few firms who have retained and paid their entire staff, your first escape should not be to a downsized property which is now trying to open up, it results in too many people wearing too many hats… i.e. is the bellman also subbing as a housekeeper? Social Distancing was invented here long before the pandemic Bungalows and Suites ooze privacy and seclusion.

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool

Guaranteed five-star ambience and in a sheltered environment, a stay is enhanced with our Diamond Club Membership amenities. Guaranteed one category upgrade at time of booking for rooms, one category upgraded at time of arrival for junior suites (subject to availability). $100 hotel credit per stay for suites. Daily Full breakfast for two.

Hotel Bel Air Pool

Just weeks before the pandemic closures, I had business and client meetings in Beverly Hills and during that all too brief superb sojourn, I plotted a Hotel Lifestyle for myself. One of my dearest local clients strolled across the bridge over Swan Lake at the Hotel Bel Air, she exclaimed: I’ve crossed into the portal of happiness and enchantment, relaxation and calm! We chatted this morning and agreed the cozy private booths at Wolfgang Puck could easily be safe for a long evening of scrumptious food and rose bubbly. Or, assuming I stay in my sumptuous pool suite, we could carefully catch up across the loungers under the swaying palms.

Presidential Suite Hotel bel Air Private pool
Bungalow Bath Beverly Hills Hotel

Staycation – Just a short distance from breathtaking mountain ranges and sun-drenched beaches, it’s the ideal destination when you need a change of scenery and to take a break from it all. Whether you prefer the glamour and glitz of The Beverly Hills Hotel or the exclusivity of Hotel Bel-Air, both properties feature luxurious accommodations steeped in comfort and privacy. Acres of gardens, many suites with private pools, seclusion in plush surroundings.

Secluded dining at The Beverly Hills Hotel

Dorchester Collection Let us look after your safety – a long list of safety procedures for your stay.

An hour south by air to the tiny, ease in, ease out, Burbank Airport and you always guaranteed sunshine. One of the most luxurious, if not the most iconic 5-star luxury hotels in Los Angeles – the home of royalty past and present is royally perched on Sunset Boulevard. The Beverly Hills Hotel has years of narrative legends are stored in the vaults, most will tell you a side street is the main entrance – no bungalow visitor of importance ever strolls the iconic red-carpet hotel entrance. Power lunches or al fresco poolside dining on a pink lounger, 80-year-old palm trees swaying gracefully in the background. Suites with patios, enjoy a mini sunbath outdoors. The rooms are flooded with sunshine and plush furnishings. Bathrooms are old school, i.e. huge stylish spaces with enough room to practice your Oscar speech in front of the wall of mirrors. Comfort comes in the form of huge fluffy towels, a beautifully deep soaking tub and separate shower. Your suite is surrounded by twelve acres of tropical gardens and exotic flowers. The famed bungalows, if these walls could talk! Originally added to the gardens for families who wanted to bring their own staff, the bungalows now celebrate a legendary heritage. Sounds like a familiar situation, pack the kiddos, reject the daily routines and give everyone a reason to celebrate being alive and well.

Dessert Beverly Hills Hotel

The West Coast sisters in the Dorchester Collection of lovely hotels reside in a small pocket of Beverly Hills – like sisters, they each exude unique personalities. I happened to visit both in February. Equally enjoy them for innumerable reasons.

Hotel Bel-Air, despite the close proximity to downtown Beverly Hills shopping and culture, is surrounded by twelve acres of lush gardens and tucked into a pocket-sized canyon. Amid towering palm and silver leafed eucalyptus trees, the Spanish Colonial design is subtle and elegant. Suites with garden patios, private plunge pools are enchanting. Move up to the hillside rooms and relish the sweeping views of the canyon from your secluded plunge pool and deck. Amid towering palm and silver leafed eucalyptus trees, the Spanish Colonial design is subtle and elegant. A hidden sanctuary amongst the wooded hills, untouched by the clamor of life beyond the gates of Bel-Air. The most quintessentially private and exclusive hotel, delivering low-key elegance since 1946. Suites with garden patios, private plunge pools are enchanting. Move up to the canyon rooms and relish the sweeping views of the canyon from your secluded plunge pool and deck. On my last visit, yes, I escape here as often as possible, a bit of spring mist kept the fireplace in my suite crackling most of the day, a cozy enclave where I cocooned and worked in between meals with my clients.

The Dorchester team is passionate about creating the exceptional moments that turn into lasting memories. To add a special touch to your stay, staff can prepare a bespoke picnic basket, bring the spa to you with an indulgent bath or even give you the ingredients to mix up your own cocktails. This is your chance to escape from it all, without ever leaving the hotel. All experiences can be booked prior to arrival or arranged anytime during your stay.

A brief menu of personal individually priced options: Let us bring the bar to you with everything you need to shake up your own cocktails. It’s a chance to channel your inner mixologist and create our signature Pepino’s Revenge. Served alongside fresh house-made tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole. Picnic on your Patio – Experience the delight of dining al fresco with a delicious picnic from Wolfgang Puck on your private guestroom patio. Our menu includes your choiceof a bottle of white wine or champagne, artisanal cheese and charcuterie, a Mediterranean mezze platter, Santa Monica farmers’ market crudités, plus a selection of sandwiches and sweet treats.
Yoga in your room – For a welcome dose of workout motivation,we’ll bring yoga to your room at any time that suits. Fresh juice and healthy snacks are the perfect post-yoga treat.
All employees and guests are required to wear face masks or face coverings and maintain a minimum of 6-feet distance when interacting with anyone while on property. If you need a face mask, the hotel will provide them upon request.

To comply with social distancing guidelines, the following are open with limited occupancy: Polo Lounge, The Cabana Cafe, The Beverly Hills Hotel pool, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, the Hotel Bel-Air spa and the Hotel Bel-Air pool.

Private pool at Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalow

This is an especially stressful time, why not indulge in pampering and escape from the frenzy? Hotel Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel, two scrumptious properties, Five Star Luxury! Consider a dash away to the extraordinary, far from typical, Dorchester Sister hotels. A quick bay area/Burbank or LAX flight, the perfect mini escape, disappear and catch your breath for a few days, order in, hole up in a bungalow or suite or pony up for the grand Presidential Suite with pool, avoid the hysteria in superb comfort!

Wolfgang Puck restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air | Dorchester Collection
Wolfgang Puck, Hotel Bel air
Wolfgang Puck restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air | Dorchester Collection
Social Distancing has always been in place at Hotel Bel Air!

I am actually considering a partial hotel lifestyle, once we enter into ‘normal’ life again. A la Heloise, Elaine Stritch and Howard Hughes, who had a fondness for Bungalow 3 at The Beverly Hills Hotel, a 30-year fondness, in fact!

Call us for all the generous amenities bestowed! Admit it, you need and deserve a papering safe escape!

Sunday Brunch for two at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
Swan Lake Hotel Bel Air