Arriving at the Kenwood Inn and Spa in Sonoma County is like stepping into a fairytale come to life. And I mean that in the best way.
Driving down roads that unfold over the irregular slopes of the California hills, striated with rows of grape-bearing vines in various shades of green, and feathery, golden fields–your eyes are so full of the tamed wild beauty of the region that you could easily miss the Kenwood’s entry way. But that’s just part of the fairytale. Turning into a driveway flanked by stonewalls and canopied with ivory, a castle-like structure looms before you, referencing Italian architecture but still very uniquely Sonoma.
Though stonewalls can sometimes seem imposing and cold, there is an infusion of welcoming warmth in every aspect of The Kenwood. The polite and attentive staff make you feel welcomed without being so doted on that it’s uncomfortable. Getting to our room was a bit like a stroll through an easy, delightful labyrinth: past the stone fireplace in the lobby (where a couple of bottles of scotch sit invitingly, to ward of the pleasant chill of California evenings); through the courtyard with its bubbling fountains, stacking arches and wrought iron details; across a patio the overflowing pots of bougainvillea; around the enormous, gorgeously tiled Jacuzzi, which is nestled among ivy and vividly alluring with a cascading waterfall.
Our room has a private entry patio from which, across the way, vineyards fan out beneath the classical mists that roll in every evening. Inside, our spacious accommodation is centered by an enormous overstuffed feather bed that is so inviting, it’s almost impossible to resist diving into it upon entering the room. A fireplace is the focal point of the far wall, with two rather stoic looking straight-backed armchairs facing it. Combining the old world charm with the relaxed convenience of modern amenities, the fireplace is gas and can be controlled with a switch. Gladly, the bathroom is also not antique in style, and is outfitted with signature toiletries made exclusively for The Kenwood Inn and Spa (these products are also part of the line available at the Spa).
It would be impossible to write about The Kenwood without substantial highlight of one of its most lauded features: the Spa. Hailed by some to be the best in all of Sonoma (which is a big accolade in this county rife with luxurious pampering opportunities), and it certainly lives up to the legend. That the therapists and beauticians are highly gifted goes without saying and any treatment at the spa is well worth a splurge (or four).
However, one of my favorite aspects of the spa is actually the products that they use. Come here as much to experience a fantastic massage as to have the grape oil from local vineyards soothed into your skin. All of the signature “Vinotherapy” treatments somehow involve the healing elements of grapes and wine, and they also feel and smell incredible. Partake of the Wine Country Facial and the Kenwood Wine Wrap treatments and you will be glowing and clear as a freshly polished decanter! And ready to step into the night, dressed in some devastatingly gorgeous but casually understated ensemble, to taste the other indulgent spoils these vineyards and their surrounding bounty offer.
And indulgent isn’t the half of it. The gourmet experience that is dining at the Kenwood is not to be missed. Even the complimentary breakfasts rise to such a high standard that a mere omelet is served so artfully and encompasses such delectable flavor, it becomes elevated beyond breakfast, to a composed plate that could easily be an appetizer at a top-notch New York City restaurant.
For a real treat, take the short, pleasant drive over to Glen Ellen where the Kenwood Inn has partnered with their sister property, the idyllic Hop Kiln Winery, in creating the HKG Tasting Room. Here, the imaginative and brilliant chef, Khambay Khamsyvoravong, creates dishes to pair with specific vintages of HKG Estate wine. Rather than just matching pre-existing foods to their best pairings, her menu is designed with each wine specifically in mind, elevating the concept of wine and food pairing to a supreme level. During our visit to the HKG Tasting Room, we had a flight of 3 splendid HKG Estate wines, transitioning from a white to a rose to a light-bodied red, paired with 3 exquisite and perfectly complimentary bites of food.
The dishes were seriously sumptuous but playfully inspired, tantalizing us with the delicious whimsy of a Crab and Curry Mustard Creme Fraiche “Cannoli.” Meanwhile, a salad of locally pressed olive-oil poached calamari (locally caught) on a bed of locally harvested avocado was as seductively rich and luscious as it was consciously sustainable, while the wild salmon–with an artfully placed curl of crispy skin–was surrounded by a carrot curry sauce that somehow managed to be refreshingly light and decadent all at once. I couldn’t stop scraping until every hint of it was gone. Truly, the level of skill and thought that went into each tiny and perfect composed bite was nothing short of astonishing.
Though, I shouldn’t really be surprised (ironically) because nothing is short of astonishing when you are staying at the Kenwood Inn and Spa, except of course, how quickly the time flies.
Food photography by Jeffery Owens for Socially Superlative; additional photographs courtesy of the Kenwood Inn and Spa