The real draw at this Mission-style resort is the extensive, swank spa with its array of massages and treatments, some designed for couples. The focus on fitness and rejuvenation extends to an adjacent 7,087-yard golf course winding through trees and vineyards, a changing schedule of fitness classes, and guided hiking and biking excursions each morning.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Some guests balk at the daily resort fee, but it does include perks many patrons appreciate, among them shuttle service to Sonoma Plaza and the golf club, daily wine tasting in the lobby, access to the main pool, docent-led hikes and other activities, fitness classes, sparkling wine upon arrival, and a wine bottle in the room.
Standard Fairmont and Fairmont Studio guest rooms aren't terribly large (some are as small as 259 square feet), but are supremely comfortable if, with their Provençal accents more ancien than au courant. Some rooms in the slightly larger Deluxe category, done in what the hotel describes as Wine Country style, have fireplaces and balconies. Vineyard (500 square feet) and Mission (550 square feet) suites feel even roomier and have fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs.
Vineyard Suites, which were renovated in 2017, have fireplaces and separate sitting areas; most have a patio or balcony.
Many guests find the bathrooms in the standard rooms on the cramped side, and some bathrooms could use updating. If bathing luxury is important to you, check with the hotel before booking—some of the bathrooms are borderline lavish.
High wood-beam ceilings, a large central fireplace, and comfortable chairs and sofas (plenty of pillows) arranged for conversation invite lingering in the spacious lobby—for a cocktail, the evening wine-tasting event, or just to people-watch. Seeing spa patrons in bathrobes lounging blissfully dazed after massages, facials, or other treatments may inspire you to book one if you haven't already done so.
Thermal hot springs feed the resort's several pools, including the large Main Pool, where a café and bar open seasonally. On chilly nights, which occur even in summer, nearby fire pits warm patrons. You can rent a private cabana that comes with a 70" TV, a safe, a fireplace, a daybed, chairs, and a refrigerator stocked with waters, sodas, beer, sparkling wine, fruit, and cheese. The clover-leaf Watsu Pool, part of the spa, is where the signature experience, a floating Shiatsu massage takes place.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The main pool is open to all guests. The spa pools, for which charges apply, are for guests age 18 and older.
The Willow Stream Spa, at 40,000 square feet and with 30 treatment rooms the Wine Country's largest spa, contains pools and hot tubs fed by local thermal springs. The signature European Bathing Ritual includes an exfoliating shower, dips in two mineral-water soaking pools, an herbal steam, and a dry-salt sauna and rain tunnel.
Couples seeking romance often request the treatment room with the two-person copper bathtub.
The roomy fitness center has cardio machines, free weights, and conditioning stations. Guests are invited to participate in daily guided hikes (reservations required) on local trails. In summer, yoga classes take place outside.
Elegant Santé is the resort's destination restaurant for haute Modern American cuisine focusing on seasonal local ingredients. You can dine à la carte, but the intricate dishes on the chef's tasting menu make it worth trading up. The snappy 38º North Lounge, named for Sonoma's location along the 38th parallel line of latitude, serves soups, salads, smoothies, and other light fares.
The more than four dozen exclusive by-the-glass wine choices at 38° North include Dom Perignon and the cult-Cab Screaming Eagle. Happy hour here is called the "Luxury Hour," with reduced but still eye-catching prices for wine, cocktails, and craft beers.
The hotel's location 2½ miles north of Sonoma Plaza makes walking downtown an hourlong journey, but the Fairmont operates a shuttle, and Sonoma County Bus 30 travels between the hotel and plaza. Once downtown there's plenty to do within walking distance.
Mosey over to El Molino Central (4-minute walk) for magnificent Mexican, including chicken mole and Niman Ranch pork tamales, or head downtown to Harvest Moon Cafe (10-minute drive) for stylishly homey dishes such as grilled chicken with baked polenta or pan-seared Hawaiian Ono with jasmine rice and eggplant. Aventine Glen Ellen (10-minute drive) for nouveau Italian and Glen Ellen Star (10-minute drive) for Modern American are two good choices in nearby Glen Ellen.
Among the specialty cocktails at the often jumpin' Starling Bar (4-minute drive) are Black Walnut Manhattans crafted with house-made nocino, and the truly smoky Orange Smoke, starring orange-infused mescal and orange curaçao. Sazeracs are the hit during the weekday happy hour (3 p.m.–7 p.m.). Head over to Sigh (10-minute drive), just west of Sonoma Plaza, for sparkling wines served in a bubbly lounge atmosphere. The fun bar at Aventine Glen Ellen restaurant (10-minute drive) is inside a former sawmill and gristmill.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Lovers of luxury pampering in need of a few days to unwind head to this lushly landscaped, full-service grande dame with a destination restaurant, in-the-know concierges, and spa with a staggering array of well-conceived treatments. There are fancier Fairmonts elsewhere in the world, but with its faintly Grand Hotel aura and solicitous staff the Sonoma Mission Inn deftly fills its Wine Country niche.