Taking a cue from the olive-tree-studded landscape, this hotel with a renowned restaurant and spa cultivates a luxurious look that blends French and California style. It backs up that look—custom wood furnishings and soft yellow hues—with lavish amenities that include private terraces, jetted soaking tubs, and extra-large showers. Superlative service and valley views that stun at nearly every turn add to the romance of this hillside hideaway whose French name translates to "inn of the sun."
YOU SHOULD KNOW Auberge, a Relais & Châteaux property, bills itself as an adults-only resort.
The accommodations, updated over the past few years (renovations in the last two buildings should be complete before Summer 2018) come in widely varying categories, from standard rooms—beautifully appointed and at 520 square feet (indoors and out) plenty spacious—to suites and two freestanding two-bedroom villas (one with its own gym) more than twice as large. All rooms have fireplaces and updated bathrooms and technology; some rooms have vaulted ceilings and outdoor showers and tubs. A complimentary bottle of wine awaits all guests upon arrival, and a minibar with complimentary snacks, sodas, waters, and juices is replenished daily.
The least expensive rooms get some noise from the bar and restaurant; seek accommodations elsewhere if this might be an issue for you.
Bathrooms with heated limestone floors contain elegant soaking tubs, some jetted, surrounded by marble tile in the same soft brown shades as the floors. All rooms also have walk-in showers, most of them huge. Auberge Spa products sit atop (with a few exceptions in smaller rooms) double vanities. Small TVs are positioned over the tubs and, to aid romance, candles and bath oils are provided.
Guests experience their first glimpse of the resort's valley views from the check-in area, where the relaxation process begins with smiling staffers offering wine, fruit, flavored water, and other refreshments. Comfortable chairs are positioned around the fireplace, and newspapers and a few books are laid out. Some guests pause here, or in the nearby lobby for the restaurant and bar, but most head straight to their rooms, escorted in a golf cart by their bell person.
The multi-tiered pool area, bears the name "La Plage" (French for "The Beach"), and although it sits amid olive and other trees—and valley and Mayacamas Mountain views substitute for marine ones—with its cabanas, large rectangular pool, and cocktail service, the setting definitely recalls a beach resort. A huge version of Auberge's sun logo appears at the bottom of the pool (open 24/7 and heated year-round), whose accompanying hot tub is a few steps away.
Only resort guests can experience the Auberge Napa Valley Spa, whose signature purification ritual involves an herbal steam, a cold plunge, and soaks in a valley-view infinity pool heated to body temperature. A dip in a hot tub several degrees warmer is the third and final step of this regimen designed to enhance patrons' massage or other choices. Signature treatments include the Auberge Massage (classic Swedish) and the Best of Auberge Facial, employing enzyme peels, an eye massage, lymphatic draining, and hand and foot reflexology.
At Auberge's well-designed fitness center, part of the resort's spa, large windows reveal woodsy views, inspiring patrons to exert themselves (or not) as they work out on Precor and other top-notch equipment, some of it on an open-air deck where ceiling fans softly twirl in warm weather. Tall French doors open wide, ensuring a fresh breeze for indoor workouts, too. Fruit, nuts, and purified water are available, and there are steam rooms in the women's and men's showers. Guests can schedule a personal trainer if desired, and well-trained instructors lead Pilates, yoga, and other classes.
Possibly the most romantic roost for a dinner in all the Wine Country is a terrace seat at the Auberge du Soleil resort's illustrious restaurant, and the Mediterranean-inflected cuisine more than matches the dramatic vineyard views. The prix-fixe dinner menu, which relies largely on local produce, might include veal sweetbreads and chanterelles in a caramelized shallot sauce or prime beef pavé with hearts of palm, lobster mushrooms, and bok choy.
Weekend brunch here is over-the-top lavish.
The signature cocktails lineup at the resort's Bistro & Bar includes the Auberge Margarita, made with Casamigos Blanco Tequila, lime and orange juice, and agave nectar. Two other longtime favorites: Basil Limonata (Ketel One Citron Vodka, fresh basil, lime, and Badoit sparkling water) and the Cuke's Gimlet (Pimm's No. 1, Bundaberg ginger beer, ginger syrup, citrus, and cucumber). As suave as the cocktails are, they're always in competition with the views outside (same as the restaurant, next door) and even indoors, where a redwood post, complete with bark, reaches up to the domed skylight above.
Most guests drive to Auberge and drive themselves, hire a car, or take Uber or Lyft to wineries and restaurants. The nearest bus stop is more than a mile away, and not much is within walking distance. Parked near the lobby are several Mercedes models—a convertible, roadster, and SUV among them—guests can test-drive for up to four hours at no charge.
Having at least one meal at Auberge's restaurant is a must, but excellent meals can be found nearby on the valley floor. Dark-wood walls, subdued lighting, and red leather banquettes make for a perpetually clubby mood at Rutherford Grill (8-minute drive), a longtime local hangout for steaks, burgers, fish, succulent rotisserie chicken, and barbecued pork ribs from an oak-fired grill. In St. Helena, the next town to the north, the chefs at Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch (9-minute drive) take advantage of the ranch's livestock and vast fruit and vegetable gardens for their Modern American cuisine, Press (7-minute drive) is a classy steakhouse with a comprehensive wine list, and storefront Cook St. Helena(12-minute drive) serves rustic Italian.
The bars at Rutherford Grill (8-minute drive) and Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch (9-minute drive) are both good choices for a cocktail, as are the ones at Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer (7-minute drive) and Press (7-minute drive). All have good wine lists and appealing signature cocktails.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Auberge is the complete Wine Country package—serene valley-view setting, stellar cuisine and spa treatments, and a staff that focuses on satisfying the clientele's every whim. The soft-yellow palette, rich surfaces, and lavish bathrooms ooze luxury, and every meal is a revelation. This ultraromantic experience comes at a hefty price, but most guests agree the resort delivers the goods.