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by Erika Lenkert



The New Magic of Meadowood


Meadowood may be the hot spot for most of the wine-loving world during the extremely high-profile annual Napa Valley Wine Auction, which is held there each June. But around my household the luxurious hillside resort is the place to go whenever R&R is an order and the credit card can afford it—especially given its recent improvements.

Driving through the entrance of the 250-acre retreat, guests are greeted by a park ranger-like staff member who steps out of his tiny post and waves them through after handing them a property map. It always reminds me of camping. Only with huge freestanding Cape Cod-style lodges and cottages dotting the expansive wooded countryside this type of sleepover is more along the lines of "Dirty Dancing" meets "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Here it's not tents that visitors are pitching, but balls—along the nine-hole golf course, over the net at tennis courts, or across the championship croquet lawn. 

However I am less into Meadowood's sporting life than I am the other half of the possible experience—lazy self-indulgence. I use my energy sparingly, making a single trek from my room to the spa for the day where I loll by the pool, dip in the hot tub, snack on guilty pleasures like a burger and fries, take a sauna or steam, get a massage, and do a yoga class before returning to my room for a pre-dinner siesta.

One unfortunate dilemma has been that for the past several years the resort's formal restaurant has been on hiatus, which meant that food-obsessed people like me had to go off-property for an elaborate dining experience. But this past winter the room opened again, just in time for me to savor in one of my favorite Meadowood pastimes: stopping for cocktails in front of the bar's fireplace before sliding into a big comfortable chair for a multi-course dining affair.

Looking around the intimate restaurant featuring seasonal, local ingredients and an outstanding wine selection, it's evident that the décor, staff, and menu mirror each other. Each is elegant but relaxed, which made it the perfect spot for us girls to let the wine swill and the gossip swirl as we tried chef Joseph Humphrey's new menu. From the taste of the Jerusalem artichoke soup, petrale sole with grilled squid and toasted-garlic saffron emulsion, and extremely tasty and educational comparison of Three Beefs and Three Mustards he is definitely making strides to ensure the word about the dining room spreads.

Ironically, with the new restaurant comes fresh reason to order room service. All of the accommodations have been beautifully updated. In years past the sheer spaciousness, stunning natural surroundings, and overall resort perks made is relatively easy to overlook the resort's old carpeting, scuffed walls, and somewhat sparse décor. But now paint colors, textiles, and furnishings are on par with the rest of the property's rich and luxurious character, which in my mind is just one more reason to check in to Meadowood, live in my robe and do a lot of nothing every time the opportunity arises.

900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, 800-458-8080 or 707-963-3646, www.meadowood.com.