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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!