Low-slung and handsomely clad in stone and wood, the Fountaingrove bills itself as a boutique hotel, which is a stretch given its size and the number of corporate events that take place. But it's conveniently located just off highway U.S. 101 and for a hotel has a solid restaurant. Rooms here often cost half the price of their equivalents in Healdsburg, yet the town's plaza is only a 20-minute drive north up the freeway.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The Fountaingrove burned to the ground on the first night of the Tubbs Fire in October 2017. Check the hotel's website for updates.
Most rooms—done in warm yellows enlivened by rich hues of red and dark orange—are spacious and more stylish, if somewhat dated, than chain-property peers. The smallest rooms are a commodious 325 square feet, with the largest king suites more than double that. All rooms have Keurig coffee makers, small refrigerators, 42" flat-screen TVs, and Sealy beds with pillow-top mattresses.
Spa suites have large tubs with whirlpool jets.
Polished-marble floors and showers lend a touch of glamour to the bathrooms, and make-up mirrors add to the functionality. Although hardly au courant, the bathrooms have a faded 1980s-Vegas appeal.
A slate floor and stone walls add sturdy grandeur to the lobby reception area. Light streams in through skylights high above, adding a soft glow on Santa Rosa's many sunny days. The longtime concierge here is superb at mapping out winery itineraries and suggesting exclusive and out-of-the-way places.
In the back of the hotel and surrounded by a stone wall, the small pool seems at once secluded and an afterthought. If you like to do laps, you'll feel short-changed. If you just want to take a dip on a hot summer day, it will suffice. There's a small hot tub, too.
A few machines, definitely not the latest and greatest, occupy the careworn fitness room. Better workouts can be had at nearby gyms, though you'll have to pay extra.
The Fountaingrove's restaurant, the Steakhouse at Equus—the name a nod to the horse ranch once on this property—rates a step above the average hotel eatery. A clubby space done in dark-brown woods with subdued lighting at night, Equus serves three squares plus bar bites in the lounge. There are better options within a few miles, but if you're at the hotel and disinclined to venture out, you'll do well enough. It'll cost you, though.
With so many guests on expense accounts, the bar at Equus is well stocked with top-shelf liquor. The signature cocktails include mules made with vodka or gin, American Lemonade (two kinds of Wild Turkey, plus lemon juice), and "Manfattans" with bacon-infused bourbon that taste better than they sound.
The weekday happy hour is a deal, with reduced drink prices and messy-good bar bites like teriyaki pork ribs, wings with ranch dressing, and lettuce cups with mesquite chicken.
The Fountaingrove sits just off U.S. 101 at a busy intersection; head north for Healdsburg, north and west for Russian River Valley wineries, and south for downtown Santa Rosa. Sonoma County Transit and Santa Rosa City Bus vehicles pass near the hotel, but except to pop downtown taking public transit can be time-consuming.
Stark's Steak & Seafood (6-minute drive) is the area's best stop for steak (the seafood and sustainable fish are good, too); try Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar (10-minute drive) for Neapolitan-style pies paired with fine local wines.
The owners of Stark's and Willi's, both with good bars, also operate Bird & The Bottle (8-minute drive), a "modern tavern" serving global comfort food and cleverly named concoctions like Shiso Pretty (vodka, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, Shiso drinking vinegar) and Macho Pisco (Encanto Pisco, Averna, blood-orange drinking vinegar). Beer-lovers make pilgrimages to Russian River Brewing (9-minute), home of Pliny the Elder and other beloved brews.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Likable if dated in style, the Fountaingrove is an acceptable choice for travelers seeking a full-service experience the staff for the most part delivers. Keep expectations in check, though. This is one of those places that the less you spend, the more you'll like it. Fortunately, Internet specials abound, especially in winter.