Secret Hotels of California Wine Country
You don't have to spend a fortune to visit the fanciest farmland in America. We've found a crop of lovely, family-run inns in Napa, Sonoma, and beyond for less than $200 a night.
Fans of flea markets and Antiques Roadshow will feel at home in the offbeat Sonoma Chalet, in a bucolic valley of pastures and tall eucalyptus trees five minutes by car west of downtown Sonoma. The inn is packed, crazy-aunt style, with old books and collectibles, including several sets of colorful Fiesta dinnerware on display in the dining room. Four of the seven guest rooms are in the main lodge, and each has its own personality. The walls of the ground-floor Mural Room are painted with Swiss mountain landscapes done by one of the house's original owners, an immigrant from Switzerland, in the 1940s; it also features a sunporch, perfect for afternoon reading. Sophie's Room is sweet and feminine, with pink walls and Irish-lace curtains. The Indian Room is decorated with antique Navajo rugs and a 1930s tube-style radio. And the sprawling second-floor Farm View Suite has two balconies, worn quilts on the wood-paneled walls, and an antique velvet couch facing a wood-burning fireplace. A short walk from the main house, there are also three stand-alone, studio-style cottages on the property. 800/938-3129, sonomachalet.com, from $110.
In 2003, while searching for a vacation home in the Bay Area, Michigan natives Denise and Anthony Salvo instead stumbled upon a bed-and-breakfast in the town of Sonoma. "It really needed some love and attention," says Denise. The rooms were filthy, the pipes were leaking, and the overgrown grounds were scattered with many years' worth of junk. The Salvos weren't looking to become innkeepers--Denise had worked in retail for 30 years and Anthony was a hair colorist--but, inspired by the property's potential, the couple took the leap. After extensive renovations, the B&B reopened in 2006. While Bungalows 313 is more expensive than other hotels in this story, the money is well spent. The five guest rooms, linked by granite pathways, open onto a Tuscan-style courtyard planted with bougainvillea and citrus trees. Even the smallest room, Luna, is luxurious. It features limestone floors, a wood-burning fireplace, a galley kitchen with copper pans hanging over the stove, and a private patio with a small table--the perfect place for morning coffee. The inn is just north of the Sonoma Plaza and a block from a scenic half-mile walking trail that winds past vineyards and farmhouses en route to Ravenswood Winery. 707/996-8091, bungalows313.com, from $209, including breakfast.