Among California’s best-kept secrets are a handful of exclusive guesthouses at its top wineries.
The 60-acre Cliff Lede winery vineyards in the Stags Leap District along Napa Valley’s famed Silverado Trail stretch from the valley floor up a steep hillside, allowing the winery to grow a variety of grapes. Perched on the hill among cabernet sauvignon vineyards, the property’s boutique luxury hotel, Poetry Inn, offers the district’s only public accommodations. Architect Howard Backen designed the inn (as well as the winery) and highlighted the views in each of the five rooms, which measure from 950 to 1,450 square feet. For a more private experience, book the entire inn or one of the winery’s three vineyard homes for a month: one is just off the Silverado Trail; one is on the hill near the inn; one is among Cliff Lede’s vineyards in nearby Calistoga. All are impeccably designed with private access, three bedrooms, and their own swimming pools. Poetry Inn from $820/night; homes from $19,000 to $35,000/month; poetryinn.com
Often called “California’s Bordeaux,” the Alexander Valley region in north Sonoma County grows some of the area’s best Bordeaux-style varietals, especially cabernet sauvignon. DeLorimier Winery, just outside the valley’s town of Geyserville, focuses on single-vineyard-designate cabernets that burst with depth and richness thanks in part to the winery’s Bordeaux-friendly terroir and low-yield output. The property’s Vineyard House is surrounded by 17 acres of these small-lot vineyards and offers a private experience in the relatively isolated Alexander Valley with three bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a back porch and a barbecue abutting rows of vines. DeLorimier also offers a pair of private suites for rent, both with patios situated just steps from the vines. delorimierwinery.com
The town of Glen Ellen is a hidden gem in Sonoma County, tucked in between the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The 105-acre Beltane Ranch is home to, among others, cabernet and chardonnay vines planted as early as 1879 from cuttings of Bordeaux vineyards, including Château Margaux. Today, the winery is best known for its sauvignon blanc and zinfandel. The property also features the Farm Stay Inn, an updated ranch house originally built in 1892 that now serves as guest accommodations with four separate suites available to rent. A more private stay is available at the Cottage Suite, which is isolated at the back of the inn with a private garden set among olive and lemon trees. This makes a great spot for the farm-to-table breakfast included with each stay. From $375; beltaneranch.com
The 100-acre Lynmar Estate includes some of the oldest pinot noir and chardonnay grapes in the Russian River Valley, an area famed for those varietals. The property borders wildlife preserve Laguna de Santa Rosa, a 22-mile stretch of creeks, marshes, and oak woodlands that are home to otters, turtles, trout, salmon, and more than 200 species of birds. Guests of the Bliss House, the Lynmar’s three-bedroom private estate that is now available to rent, are surrounded by vineyards, vegetable gardens, and wildflowers. The house showcases views of the adjacent wetlands through floor-to-ceiling windows and from its second-story balcony. From $1,500/night ($1,200 for Lynmar club members), with a five-night minimum; lynmarestate.com
California’s Central Coast does not get as much attention for its winemaking as the Napa and Sonoma valleys farther north, but the area nonetheless produces some beautiful wines. The sprawling Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles spans more than 160 acres of rolling hills. In addition to a large tasting room and on-site restaurant, Justin also offers several options for on-site accommodations: Just Inn, which comprises three private suites, and the one-bedroom Vintner’s Villas. For larger parties, the Chateaux at Justin is a hilltop residence with four bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a billiards room, and much more. It’s currently closed for renovations, but the winery expects it to reopen next year. Suites from $300; $12,500/night for the Chateaux; justinwine.com