| LEEDing in Napa |
We check in and are escorted through sunny courtyards and flourishing gardens to Room 102. Drawing in a breath, we gasp, “Oh, wow.” What we behold is a modern, high-tech suite made welcoming as a country inn by just the right accents of dark wood and soothing natural tones. We plop down on the sofa and run our hands over the soft bed linens. Our eyes scan over the generous living and sleeping spaces separated by a double-sided fireplace (gas) and twin plasma screens. Then we gawk at the over-the-top bathroom (his and hers vanities on opposing walls, a “bubble-up” soaking tub and 2-person steam room/shower, both edged by windows that encourage us to gaze out upon our private walled patio and outdoor shower).
Lovely natural light bathes nearly every nook and cranny—we have 200 sq′ of window glass, we later learn—but we can change all that. All it takes is a few moments of fun at one of several elaborate arrays of controls. Hey, these switches are cool—not only can we motor down, and precisely angle, the various sets of exterior venetian blinds, but how about all these dimmers, the fireplace on/off, the sound system adjustments….whoa! Our bellman is trying to tell us something. Yes. Our suite is also a private spa. Cleverly concealed behind a sleekly designed bathroom cabinet is a hideaway massage table for personalized treatments … after proper preparations by your suite’s very own spa butler, of course.
We look at each other and it’s all we can do not to burst out laughing. And we think this: This is gonna be great. And then we think: Phil Sherbourne has really done it this time.
Eco-chic in the epicenter
We are at Bardessono, the eco-conscious Sherbourne’s latest property, in Yountville, a little more than an hour’s drive north from San Francisco in the Napa Valley, the epicenter of California wine country. When it opened in early 2009, Bardessono laid claim to being the greenest luxury hotel in America. As far as we know, no challenger has toppled that assertion. In fact, since then Bardessono has gone even greener—achieving LEED Platinum certification, a distinction only 2 other hotels in the world can claim. How can we describe for you the vision that Sherbourne and his team imbued in this stunning new destination? Well, it turns out they have come up with a pretty good phrase. They call it hospitality that weds living “deep green” with luxury.
Let’s talk hospitality first. Some of it is high tech: A digital sensor switches off the lights and fireplace and turns off the heating or cooling after you leave your suite; on your return, everything goes back to just the way you left it (frequent guests are greeted by a room pre-set to their preferences). Some are natural: Orange and mint infused water at your bedside every night, along with an aromatherapy patch—simply pat the the patch onto your shoulder and let its essential oils and aromas escort you to dreamland. Some are personal: You’ll notice right away there’s no traditional hotel front desk. Just a couple of stylish work stations peopled with smiling staff. They welcome you as if your arrival has been eagerly anticipated and hand you an ingeniously conceived packet that holds your room key cards and a neat little booklet that fills you in about everything from the high-performance mountain bikes in the hotel bike shop that await at no extra charge to a very impressive set of “eco facts.”
The deep green
Solar power—940 photovoltaic panels that can produce 260 thousand kilowatt hours per year—by far the largest system for any hotel in North America.
Geothermal system—82 geothermal wells that penetrate 300′ into the ground—that heats and cools guest suites and the domestic water supply—by far the largest for any hotel in North America.
Green materials—Soy fiber-based rugs, green-certified fabrics, organic bed linens. “Up-cycled” wood salvaged from local Monterey cypress, walnut, redwood, eucalyptus and California bay laurel trees—re-purposed for siding, ceiling beams, furniture, bathroom flooring and more.
Waste re-use —All waste water treated (by the municipal system) and recycled for irrigation uses.
And more —LED and fluorescent lighting, organic cleaning products, electric vehicles, drought-resistant landscaping. A construction process that recycled 93% of all waste.
Bardessono is a 62-room hotel and you’ll likely be surprised by that when you see it. It seems smaller, more intimate. Credit the low-rise design and groupings of suites—a few are even bigger than ours, which is a very comfy 550 sq′—around courtyards connected by pathways. There’s also a main building with a handsome lounge, a restaurant for indoor and outdoor dining and meeting rooms, and another with a shop and separate spa for those who simply can’t tolerate being pampered in the comfort of their suite. On the roof of that one is a 75-foot pool ringed by cabanas and panoramic views of the Stags Leap Palisades and the Mayacamas range.
Bardessono is named for the family whose farmstead formerly occupied this same patch of earth, long before grapes became practically the only thing grown in this world famous neighborhood. Presumably, the Bardessonos would be pleased to see the hotel’s organic veggie gardens. They are lovingly cared for, like demonstration gardens more than working kitchen plots. No matter. Sean O’Toole, the hotel’s executive chef, doesn’t need to rely only on what can be grown on the hotel grounds. From long experience, he knows the very best organic producers in the bountiful Bay Area, and you’ll find them on his seasonal menus—Joseph Minocchi of White Crane Springs Ranch with his inimitable herb salad mix, David Little and his heirloom spuds (don’t miss O’Toole’s potato gnocchi!), Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch with his succulent pork, to name a few. Chef Sean also works closely with local cheese makers, fish mongers and wine makers.
A luncheon sublime
He knows he’s got major competition. Yountville is also home to superstar Chef Thomas Keller and his French Laundry as well as several other laudable restaurants. If our sublime luncheon at an outdoor table on a glorious autumn day is any indication, we predict Chef Sean will do just fine. His flavors are clean and bright, balanced and impeccably fresh. His creations are familiar yet distinctive. And, just as impressively, they are quite affordable considering the exclusive real estate that is Yountville. The green cuisine at Bardessono is worth a stop on its own.
To Bardessono we say, bravo.
Green Traveler Guides is an award-winning green travel website and e-book publisher.