The goal of the Castellucci family, which lavishly refurbished an 1885 Italianate, is to provide "a curated luxury experience." With rooms individually decorated by Sarahliz Lawson, a local designer of international renown—the firm of the celebrated Howard Backen handled the architectural remodel—there's plenty to ooh and aah about even before you take in the panoramic views from the cupola (said to be the highest interior space on the valley floor) or ease into the Bentley that whisks guests to dinner and winery appointments. Simple pleasures abound, too, among them the 1¼-acre property's mix of mature and recently planted trees, the wide porch that wraps around the entire house, and the century-old barn with its still-intact livestock stalls.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The home's original owner and namesake, Theron H. Ink, was a local businessman, farmer, vintner, and politician, but the most famous resident, albeit only for a few months, was Elvis Presley, whose stay here while filming "Wild in the Country" (Hope Lange counsels the King to become a writer!) Lawson commemorated, in the room dedicated to him, with blue suede fabric and a director's chair .
The inn's four rooms are named for Theron Ink; his wife, Harriett; Elvis Presley; and Ink's Helios Ranch, which is listed, along with the house, on the National Register of Historic Places. All rooms have 11-foot ceilings and vineyard views out tall windows. Custom-made furniture, chandeliers, and other accessories decorate each room, and handmade linens adorn the comfortable beds. Items like a hand-crafted mahogany writer's desk in the Theron room that doubles as a service station for morning coffee, for instance, reflect its room's namesake.
The Napa Valley Wine Train passes near the house, and though the windows are double-paned, some sound does bleed through. The Theron Room in the back is probably the quietest, and with its southwestern exposure, it's arguably the brightest.
The designer strove for subtle elegance in the bathrooms. In keeping with the home's period, they're relatively minimal, their walls clad in gray glass subway tiles whose tone shifts as the light changes throughout the day. The vanities all have marble countertops, and the sink and showers fixtures are of gleaming polished chrome. Two bathrooms have showers only; the other two have whirlpool tubs as well as showers. Gently scented Italian soaps and other bath products are supplied, along with organic linen (not cotton) Anchini towels in the European style.
The Stateroom, a handsome salon in one of the home's two original parlors, serves as the inn's lobby, setting an immediately luxe tone the hosts reinforce with an offer of wine or other beverage while a valet parks guests' cars. Crown molding, custom cabinets, and a two-piece coffee table made of polished petrified oyster shell on a resin base molded from a Malaysian rubber tree count among the visual delights.
The inn has no pool, but guests receive complimentary access to the lap pool at the Health Spa Napa Valley (4-minute drive) in downtown St. Helena.
Guests receive a discounted rate on spa treatments at the nearby Health Spa Napa Valley. To ensure the best possible spa experiences for guests, after learning their preferences the innkeepers, who know the specialties of all the valley's upscale spas, can suggest the one most appropriate.
There's no gym on-site, but the inn has partnered with the Health Spa Napa Valley to provide guests complimentary access to the club's workout area, pool, and locker rooms.
A Castellucci family friend fashioned a raw piece of elm into the beautiful table, surrounded by fiber Palecek chairs, in the inn's vast high-tech kitchen. A Continental breakfast with a hot entrée like quiche or a frittata, along with pastries, seasonal fruit, meats, cheeses, juices, and coffee and tea is served each morning in this light-filled bright-white space. The kitchen is available for guests to use by themselves—perhaps to whip up a midnight snack or other meal—or to hire their own chef to prepare lunch or dinner.
The inn's owners also operate Castellucci Napa Valley, whose wines include a notable Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. There's no bar here, but Castellucci wines are among the wines the hosts pour for guests. Craft cocktails and European aperitifs and digestifs should be available by Spring 2018.
About 1½ miles north of Rutherford and 2¾ miles south of St. Helena, the Ink House is steps from the intersection of St. Helena Highway (Highway 29) and Whitehall Lane. Although several wineries are within a 15-minute walk (Whitehall Lane Winery is a minute away), sections of the highway are dicey because of narrow shoulders, so having a car will come in handy when you're not availing yourself of the Bentley.
Downtown St. Helena restaurants—each less than five minutes by car—include Charter Oak for farm-to-table Modern American cuisine served family style, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen for comfort food with international influences, Cook St. Helena for sophisticated northern Italian, and Goose & Gander for American dishes that pair well with the bar's signature cocktails. Head to Terra for old-school romance and prix-fixe Italian and French cuisine with a Japanese inflection. Even nearer is Press (1-minute drive), known for its high-quality steaks and superior wine list. Press and Terra are splurges, though The Restaurant at Meadowood (10-minute drive), which has earned three Michelin stars for several years running (the same folks are behind Charter Oak), qualifies as the area's ultimate culinary experience.
The bar at Las Alcobas Napa Valley's Acacia House (7-minute drive) lures tourists and locals with its signature margaritas topped with sea-salt foam and the Acacia Cocktail, made with gin, honey, crème de violet, and a dash of sparkling wine. For a dose of atmosphere with your cocktail, head to the speakeasy-like downstairs bar at Goose & Gander (5-minute drive) or over to Bar Terra (5-minute drive), inside a historic fieldstone building. The Saint (5-minute drive), a wine bar inside the former Bank of St. Helena building, pours local wines you can compare with their counterparts from Europe and elsewhere. Craft beers are also served.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Ink House officially opened in early 2018, so it's too early to tell how things will shake out, but all the elements are in place for a highly successful new chapter in this historic property's long life.