Planners toast this robust and romantic region
If indeed there is a heaven on earth, it might be in Northern California’s Napa Valley or Sonoma County. It’s hard to conceive of a more idyllic destination. The sun-drenched valleys and mild climate are perfect for growing grapes, and the fertile region rivals France and Italy in its ability to produce award-winning wines.
When fine wine is uncorked, good food should be available to complement it. Luckily, the lush area is also famous for its cuisine. Cows and goats roam the grassy hills, producing rich milk that gets transformed into fine cheese. Blending ethically raised meats and organically grown produce procured from local vendors, the area’s many artful chefs create visual and culinary masterpieces.
Outstanding cuisine is just one of Northern California Wine Country’s many charms. Culturally sophisticated and casually elegant, the region is ideal for meeting planners looking to pamper and impress attendees. A plethora of fine hotels and resorts offer luxurious yet unpretentious accommodations—many with world-class spas and championship golf courses. Interesting offsite activities can include cooking classes with master chefs, cycling on country roads and hot-air ballooning over the vineyards. It’s no wonder planners find Napa and Sonoma irresistible.
This sophisticated and stylish boutique hotel in downtown Napa’s revitalized West End neighborhood is just minutes from restaurants, art galleries, shopping and 15 local tasting rooms, yet guests can enjoy a memorable experience without setting foot off the property. Dine at Andaz Farmers Table, which features farm-fresh local fare, and then unwind at Terrace, a chic, 4,500-square-foot outdoor oasis with porch swings, cozy lounge chairs and glowing fire pits. The Terrace can accommodate up to 200 for private events.
A nice bonus is the live music presented through The Andaz Artists program, where local musicians (mainly acoustic guitarists) perform twice weekly. Andaz Napa, which has 141 contemporary guest rooms, is ideal for small group meetings and corporate events.
Auberge du Soleil, French for “Inn of the Sun,” recreates the romantic ambience of Provence. The luxury property, which opened in Rutherford more than three decades ago, boasts spectacular views from its sun-drenched patio and is an unbeatable setting for a cocktail reception. The property’s highly acclaimed self-titled restaurant was one of Napa Valley’s first fine-dining establishment, and it continues to draw crowds that rave about the Mediterranean-inspired food. The Auberge Spa is equally legendary.
The property can accommodate meetings for 10 and galas for up to 120. There are 50 guest rooms, suites and private maisons, each with French doors that step out onto private terraces. Relaxation is encouraged with cozy fireplaces and sensuous elements such as private soaking tubs for two.
Tucked into a secluded canyon on a 157-acre site is Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge resort. The property is a nature-lover’s dream, with acres of preserved land and hiking trails. Guests can exercise in the state-of-the-art fitness center and practice yoga alfresco on the deck. In keeping with the natural theme, the 50 freestanding guest lodges feature natural textiles and outdoor rain showers. In a unique nod to the environment, Calistoga Ranch has EV charging stations for hybrid automobiles.
Planners can take full advantage of the property’s 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and organize meals at The Lakehouse, a romantic setting overlooking Lake Lommel. One of the key attractions of Calistoga Ranch is the spa, a rejuvenating sanctuary nestled in the canyon. Guests can soak in mineral pools surrounded by the sound of the creek and views of moss-laden oaks, then receive restorative treatments from the professional staff.
When not meeting, guests at this luxury retreat in St. Helena can hike, swim and play tennis, croquet and golf—or simply relax. The property has 99 guest rooms and more than 20,834 sq. ft. of meeting space. Its Michelin three-star Restaurant at Meadowood is renowned for inspired, seasonal menus that incorporate vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that come straight from its onsite garden, as well as wild edibles such as artichokes, turnips, herbs, arugula and strawberries that are harvested locally.
Since food is a memorable component of the Meadowood experience, planners can arrange for a hands-on cooking class with a Meadowood chef, either on the premises or at a local winery. In a Latin-themed class, participants can learn to prepare traditional Latin cocktails, as well as homemade tortillas and recipes incorporating heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, a local purveyor. In a separate cocktail-making class, participants can learn to create impressive alcoholic drinks, as well as how to hand-cut ice cubes and stencil bitters on egg-white foam.
Silverado Resort and Spa at Napa Valley combines state-of-the-art business facilities with recreational possibilities. Julie Maurer, vice president of marketing, notes that the property is a “one-stop shop” with a full-service spa, two PGA championship golf courses, 13 lighted tennis courts, 10 swimming pools and miles of hiking and biking trails. It is easy to get to, with three airports a little more than an hour’s drive away.
Silverado Mansion Conference Center boasts more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including an elegant ballroom, 13 meeting rooms and multiple outdoor venues. The experienced staff is dedicated to executing flawless events. Planners also have access to a destination services manager who can help arrange offsite team-building activities such as an interactive scavenger hunt using GPS receivers. When it’s time for attendees to return to their rooms, all 390 of the recently renovated guest rooms feature free Wi-Fi, fireplaces and private balconies or patios.
A contemporary property located on the Silverado Trail, Solage Calistoga provides guests with a fresh, approachable take on luxury. There is an emphasis on artistry and craftsmanship in everything from the decor to the culinary offerings. The atmosphere at Solage Calistoga is casual, relaxed and welcoming. The property has 89 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Solbar, the Michelin-starred onsite restaurant, presents beautifully crafted dishes that are prepared from local ingredients. Artfully designed and ecologically conscious, Spa Solage offers a full range of therapeutic services including modern twists on traditional Calistoga mud and mineral water therapies.
“Solage Calistoga is an ideal property for meetings,” says General Manager Marcus Mueller, noting the floor-to-ceiling windows that accentuate the natural setting. “The space overlooks the Palisades mountainside and is perfectly suited for hosting a range of unique and memorable events.”
This Marriott property in the heart of Napa provides easy access to wine tasting, shopping, dining and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The 100-room hotel features a complimentary breakfast every morning, ergonomic workspaces in every suite, an outdoor heated pool and whirlpool, a fitness center and a fire pit.
The 6,200 sq. ft. of meeting space at SpringHill Suites Napa Valley includes the elegant Chardonnay Ballroom, a striking outdoor terrace and two other rooms.
Just like its namesake wine, The Meritage Resort and Spa is a blend of fine dining, beautiful event space and unique entertainment options. Napa’s largest hotel, The Meritage has 322 guest rooms, many with private balconies or patios with vineyard views. It is also California’s largest meeting venue north of San Francisco.
The AAA Four Diamond property boasts more than 50,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor event space. From the 10,490-square-foot Meritage Grand Salon Ballroom to intimate boardroom settings, the resort accommodates nearly any size meeting, convention, trade show, conference, incentive trip and corporate gala. A particularly interesting venue is Estate Cave, built into the hillside beneath the property’s 9-acre vineyard. The 3,892-square-foot space has a barrel-shaped ceiling and can accommodate up to 200 guests for wine education programs, receptions and corporate dinners.
Meritage’s signature restaurant, Siena, features seasonal menus inspired by Napa Valley’s bounty. The more casual Blend offers beverages, baked goods and gelato, and Terrace Bar, open seasonally by the pool, has light fare. The Commons: A Wine Bar has an extensive menu of varietals. Enjoy tasting in the Trinitas Cellars Tasting Room.
Guests have access to two swimming pools, a bocce ball court, a fitness studio with vineyard views, 9 acres of hiking trails and Spa Terra. In the evening, groups can convene in Crush Ultra Lounge, a fun venue with six bowling lanes, a pool table and bar.
Located on the riverbank in the heart of downtown, The Westin Verasa Napa is within walking distance of many restaurants, boutiques and wine-tasting rooms. The sleek, modern resort has 180 guest rooms and 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities.
Guests at the property can enjoy many amenities including a heated saltwater pool and complimentary daily wine tasting. Planners can arrange for an experienced sommelier to conduct a team-building blind tasting exercise where participants can learn how to properly identify key flavor components in different wines.
During their free time, attendees can explore Oxbow Public Market, a popular nearby attraction. The lively market is home to nearly two dozen local vendors selling everything from tacos to ice cream. At Oxbow it is possible to arrange meet and greets with individual purveyors or attend a spice-blending workshop. A short drive away, Cakebread Cellars offers hands-on cooking classes that include a property tour and a three-course lunch with wine pairing. All participants receive a Cakebread Cellars apron and a recipe booklet.
Located just 45 minutes from cosmopolitan San Francisco, quaint Sonoma County seems a world away. Locals and visitors gather in the tree-lined plazas of Sonoma’s many picturesque towns, where street fairs and farmers markets operate year-round.
Since the Gold Rush, people have been drawn to the natural thermal springs that dot the region, claiming the waters have rejuvenating power. While Sonoma County is certainly famous for its mud baths and spas, it is also a mecca for the arts. The acclaimed Green Music Center at Sonoma State University is one of more than 30 performing arts centers in the area. The region also boasts more than 100 galleries and museums, including one honoring Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who lived in Santa Rosa.
With 6,600 hotel rooms and unique event venues such as wine caves, estates and Safari West Wildlife Preserve, Sonoma County is an interesting place to meet. Paula Johnson, director of group sales at Sonoma County Tourism, points out that the CVB is eager to introduce planners to the destination and is offering cash incentives of up to $4,000 to event professionals who book and actualize their first meeting in Sonoma County.
Johnson notes there is plenty to do in the region. “Offsite activities include hiking and ziplining through towering redwood forests, teeing off at 22 stunning golf courses, cycling through scenic vineyards, horseback riding, race car driving on a thrilling road course, and kayaking and canoeing on the Russian River,” she says. More than 50 pristine parks offer nature lovers miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Like Napa Valley, Sonoma County has more than 400 wineries, many of which consistently produce award-winning vintages. But Sonoma is also known for its high-quality local beer and hard cider, as well as artisanal spirit distilleries. Here is a toast to some great meeting resorts in Sonoma County!
Planners will discover casual luxury at Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which is situated on 13 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds in Santa Rosa. The resort boasts 250 guest rooms, 8,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor meeting space with 11 breakout rooms and 6,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space. The resort also features Nectar Restaurant and Lounge. For those who enjoy golfing, it has partnerships with local clubs.
A big attraction is nearby . As one of the state’s largest gaming spots, it spans 320,000 sq. ft. Unlike many casinos, it was built with large windows designed to welcome in natural light. The 9,000-square-foot Event Center seats up to 610 people and can be used for receptions, galas and concerts. It has a separate entrance, providing privacy, yet easy access to gaming.
Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa, a Tuscan villa-style property in downtown Santa Rosa, is located in Historic Railroad Square, just a short stroll to many shopping and dining options. The lush grounds are covered with aromatic lavender, wisteria and roses. The AAA Four Diamond hotel has 155 guest rooms, a pool, a fitness center and an onsite salon. Guests can rejuvenate at Le Carre Spa.
Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa features more than 40,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space. Indoors planners will find 15,000 sq. ft. of usable space including a 6,944-square-foot ballroom and 15 breakout rooms.
Groups can dine alfresco at Brasserie Restaurant or sip handcrafted cocktails by the cozy fire pit. On the free weekly Friday Wine Downs, guests can meet representatives from local wineries who share their special vintages and answer questions.
An oasis blessed with natural mineral hot springs, this sophisticated property in the town of Sonoma is renowned for its 40,000-square-foot spa. The property boasts 226 guest rooms, a PGA championship 18-hole golf course and the Michelin-starred Sante Restaurant.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa also has world-class meeting facilities. The property provides 7,537 sq. ft. of flexible indoor meeting space with plenty of natural light and a ballroom with a wood-burning fireplace. It also features 15,077 sq. ft. of outdoor meeting space.
Fairmont’s unique Meetings that Matter program lets planners donate part of the room revenue to charity. The company’s hands-on volunteerism programs allow corporate teams to bond while helping the community. The hotel can assist planners to arrange a beach clean-up and volunteer at a local food bank, among other things.
This AAA Four Diamond property in the town of Sonoma was ranked among the top resort spas in North America by Conde Nast Traveler in 2012. In addition to the full-service spa, the property has 182 guest rooms with free Wi-Fi and an outdoor pool. Carneros Bistro serves up local wines and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. For those in a hurry, Bean & Bottle has items to go.
The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa is ideal for corporate meetings and social events. It features 22,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including the 3,080-square-foot Sonoma Ballroom and 17 different meeting rooms.
Meeting planners seeking a lovely destination with fine cuisine, restorative body treatments, top-notch meeting facilities and interesting offsite options need look no further than Northern California’s Wine Country. With their many amenities and near-perfect year-round weather, Napa Valley and Sonoma County will delight everyone.
-Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
-Visit Napa Valley
-Visit Sonoma Wine Country
Healthy Fast Food Drive-Thru Opens In Sonoma
Amy’s Drive Thru is taking on McDonalds, one veggie burger at a time. The fast-food eatery, which opened July 20 in Rohnert Park, California, offers healthy vegetarian choices such as burgers, fries, pizza, chili and shakes—all organic, with no genetically modified ingredients, and plenty of gluten-free and vegan options.
Amy’s Drive Thru is the first of its kind worldwide—a fast-food joint dishing up healthy food derived from locally sourced ingredients. The new venture is owned by Andy and Rachel Berliner, founders of the Amy’s Kitchen line of vegetarian frozen foods.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the prices. The Amy, a double veggie patty with two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and Fred Sr.’s secret sauce (regular or spicy), is $4.29. A single patty costs just $2.99. Other reasonably priced menu options include burritos, chili, mac ‘n cheese, pizza, fries, salads and milk shakes.
Sonoma County Celebrates Peanuts Gang
Although cats are the ones that are supposed to have nine lives, Snoopy, the pup who turns 65 in 2015, will no doubt get a second wind when the new Peanuts movie comes out in November. The entire Peanuts gang (Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Pig Pen and Woodstock) is immortalized in statues throughout Santa Rosa. This is because the creator of the iconic cartoon characters, the late Charles Schulz, lived and worked in the city. The native son is so beloved that the airport is officially titled the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport.
Nostalgic planners can arrange trips to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. The facility houses 7,000 original cartoons, Schulz’s drawing board and a 100-seat theater that screens animated Peanuts specials. In the outdoor courtyard, visitors will find Charlie Brown’s nemesis, the famous “kite-eating tree.”
Major Meeting Venues
Centrally located, downtown Napa boutique hotel; 141 stylish contemporary guest rooms; Andaz Farmers Table restaurant features farm-fresh fare; 2,600 sq. ft. of meeting space; lovely outdoor terrace.
Auberge du Soleil
Luxury property located near the Silverado Trail in Rutherford; incredible views from the famed patio; 50 guest rooms and suites; 2,915 sq. ft. of meeting space; award-winning restaurant and spa.
Elegant, LEED Platinum hotel in Yountville; 1,665 sq. ft. of indoor and 4,000 sq. ft. of outdoor meeting space; 62 guest rooms; award-winning restaurant.
50 free-standing guest lodges on private 157-acre site; 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; restorative soaking pools and spa; The Lakehouse restaurant overlooks Lake Lommel.
Embassy Suites Napa Valley
Mediterranean structure with courtyard; pond with resident swans; 205 suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms.
AAA Four Diamond property in St. Helena; romantic hideaway with 74 guest rooms; 13,550 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; restaurant by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer.
Boutique property in downtown Yountville; within walking distance of boutique shops; 80 guest rooms; 4,400 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space; restaurant; spa.
Meadowood Napa Valley
Luxury retreat in St. Helena; 99 guest rooms; more than 20,384 sq. ft. of meeting space; award-winning restaurant; nine-hole golf course; tennis courts; hiking trails.
Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa
Contemporary property in Napa; 275 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space including three ballrooms, 13 breakout rooms; outdoor patio; spa; VINeleven restaurant.
Silverado Resort and Spa at Napa Valley
Expansive Napa resort; 390 guest rooms, with free Wi-Fi; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; two PGA championship golf courses; tennis courts; spa.
Contemporary property on Silverado Trail; 89 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; Michelin-starred Solbar restaurant.
The Meritage Resort and Spa
Napa’s largest hotel; 322 guest rooms; AAA Four Diamond property; the region’s largest amount of meeting space, 50,000 sq. ft.; several dining options; tasting room; entertainment lounge; spa.
The Westin Verasa Napa
Sleek, modern resort near Oxbow Market; 180 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; complimentary wine tasting daily; heated saltwater pool.
Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn
Downtown Sonoma property; 82 guest rooms; adjacent Krug Event Center has more than 2,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; garden courtyard with saltwater pool; free Wi-Fi.
Courtyard Santa Rosa
Downtown Santa Rosa property; all 138 guest rooms were renovated in 2014; lobby bistro and pool area were refreshed in 2015; 1,924 sq. ft. of meeting space; fitness center.
DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country
Rohnert Park property; 245 guest rooms; 18,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 32,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; two 18-hole championship golf courses; complimentary wine and cheese pairings on Fridays.
Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa
Historic Santa Rosa landmark has a retro vibe; 14,368 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 6,300-square-foot ballroom; 170 guest rooms; spa; two pools.
Hilton Sonoma Wine Country
Casual luxury resort in Santa Rosa; 250 guest rooms; three ballrooms with a total of 8,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 6,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; pool; Nectar Restaurant and Lounge.
Boutique hotel in Healdsburg; 55 guest rooms; 2,241 sq. ft. of meeting space accommodates up to 200; Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa
AAA Four Diamond Mediterranean-style hotel in downtown Santa Rosa; 155 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of total meeting space, including a 6,944-square-foot ballroom; more than 20,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space.
Sheraton Sonoma County-Petaluma
Adjacent to Petaluma River wetlands, walking trails, restaurants and shops; 184 newly renovated guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 13 breakout rooms; free Wi-Fi; pool; fitness center.
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Sophisticated property; 226 guest rooms; 7,537 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 15,077 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; superb spa; golf; Michelin-starred Sante Restaurant.
The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa
AAA Four Diamond property in Sonoma; 182 guest rooms; 22,000 sq. ft. of total event space, including 3,080-square-foot Sonoma Ballroom and 17 meeting rooms.
AAA Four Diamond property in Santa Rosa; courtyards and fountains; 44 guest rooms; 13,000-square-foot conference center; legendary John Ash & Co. Restaurant; free Wi-Fi.