Montage Healdsburg | Healdsburg, CA

A Peaceful Retreat In Sonoma Wine Country

For decades, the Napa/Sonoma region has been the premier wine country destination in California, offering not only its share of award-winning wines and sumptuous edibles but luxurious accommodations as well. In the past few years, a resurgence has occurred with several new distinguished properties emerging in this area. To me, one property is a cut above, the Montage Healdsburg.

The Property

From the moment I approached the property on Montage Way, I found myself captivated by the gentle serpentine ascend as I cruised under canopied oak trees dripping with moss…only to arrive at the hilltop landing with scenic views of rolling hills, lush landscape, orange and crimson colored vineyards {Fall season}, and enchanting abodes inconspicuously tucked into the hillsides of the property. My first impression…Hello Xanadu.

The almost 260 acre property feels like a secluded sanctuary. As you collect your bearings, you realize the indefectible blur between the indoors and outdoors.

From the outside, the architecture and its details are purposefully designed to blend into their natural surroundings, even as detailed as selecting the exterior building sidings to match the bark of the mature oak trees on the property.

From the inside, the environmentally sensitive design was inspired by the property’s unique and stunning landscape, pulling from nature’s palette by incorporating wood, stone, leather accents, and touches of copper and gold. The floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the main buildings and bungalows provide a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor living, creating a cohesive environment.

The Lobby

As you enter the lobby, you can’t help but feel the inviting atmosphere with its unique reception desk and an impressive live-edge-wood art feature; a large stone fireplace commands your attention in the center of the room, and cozy seating areas overlook the grounds, vineyards and Mount St. Helena in the background. The feeling is more of being welcomed into a friend’s luxurious home than checking into a hotel. The staff is attentive and friendly, which makes for a very welcoming guest experience.

Guest Rooms

The Montage Healdsburg {MH} offers 130 rooms, suites, and a Guest House. The spacious modernized bungalow-style units are sprinkled throughout the property, some offering vineyard views, others providing forest and mountain views, and the Guest House offers it all.

The bungalows are all designed in the same serene, clean-line, and organic style creating a tranquil retreat. Unique touches such as creative wood-slat room dividers and custom-made leather straps for storing wine bottles in the bar provide an elevated aesthetic. The roomy bungalows are equipped with a seating area, coffee bar, and mini-bar offering an assortment of high-end libations and snacks.

There are two units per structure, but a separating wall extending the length of the balcony keeps the spaces very private. Each guest balcony offers a different yet pleasant view and is furnished with comfortable seating, with some units providing outdoor fire pits. One of my favorite moments was sitting on the deck in the early morning, drinking my coffee by the fire pit and watching the sunrise as it cast its pink hues over the hills.

It’s been a while since I can say that a bathroom took my breath away, but these bathrooms are exceptional. The spacious, spa-like bathrooms have a soothing cream-colored scheme with rich earth-tone accents in the wood and stone elements. The bathrooms offer a deep soaking tub, indoor shower, with some units offering an outdoor shower…always a fun feature. An innovative implementation I have never encountered before is the round cut-out on the indoor glass shower panel so you can reach through to turn on the water without getting wet or going into “cold water” shock. Brilliant. Montage manages to elevate the grandeur of the in-room spa experience by providing luxury bath amenities by Glass Moderne, a collection created exclusively for all Montage Hotels and Resorts and made from the highest quality ingredients.

Dining

Montage Healdsburg offers a variety of dining experiences. From casual fare to MH’s signature restaurant serving French-influenced California cuisine, there is something here to satisfy everyone’s palette.

Hazel Hill is the signature restaurant on the property. The open kitchen concept provides for an interactive experience while dining on their locally sourced and seasonally inspired dishes. Pair your meal with a fine wine from their extensive wine collection and enjoy your dining experience overlooking the resort’s vineyard. Should you want to host a private event, reserve the glass-encased, semi-private Oak Room and enchant your guests with a whimsical treehouse dining experience, or enjoy a private dinner in the Madrone room.

Scout Field Bar: For a more relaxed ambiance, enjoy wine, specially crafted cocktails, and delectable bites by the fireplace in the cozy lobby or Al Fresco on the Lobby Terrace next to an outdoor fire pit. You may even find yourself enjoying some live music on select evenings.

Hudson Springs Bar and Grill: Located between the Adult Only and Family pools, the Hudson Springs Bar and Grill provides outdoor service on a seasonal basis. Enjoy elevated casual fare and libations as you lounge poolside overlooking the beauty of the resort grounds and Mount St. Helena.

Healdsburg Country Store: The Healdsburg Country Store is a charming market where guests can pick up barista-crafted coffees, locally made pastries, wine, and specialty foods such as artisan jams and cheeses, house-made pickles, and locally cured meats. The store also sells unique gifts and meaningful products characterized by the wine country lifestyle.

In-Room Dining: If you prefer to dine in the comfort of your guestroom or balcony, a full menu of in-room dining options is available 24-hrs a day.

Fireside S’mores: End your evening on a sweet note with marshmallows and chocolatey goodness as you roast your S’mores and engage in fireside chats {available Friday and Saturday evenings}.

Events

What could be more inspiring than to plan your next event in the heart of wine country, showcasing Montage Healdsburg’s spectacular surroundings? Say “I do” on the Grand Lawn amid the vineyards, celebrate that “special one” with all your friends and family in the Grand Ballroom, or host the perfect meeting somewhere in the over 6,300 sq ft of flexible indoor and outdoor space that MH has to offer.

Wellness

Find balance and serenity at the Spa Montage Healdsburg. MH’s 11,500 sq ft retreat includes 11 treatment rooms offering an array of services and amenities inspired by wine country influences, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and an adult-only zero-edge pool. Enjoy Yoga classes in the vineyard, take time for a sauna, or treat yourself to mani/pedi at the Salon. The resort offers all the Fitness and Wellness experiences you would expect at a top-rated luxury resort.

Experiences/Activities

From curated wine and culinary events to family programs, the experiences and activities are bountiful at this property.

Meet the Maker: Guests and locals are invited to join each week when local vintners and distillers share their craft and tell the story behind each bottle while sipping and learning from the creators themselves. This event is popular with the locals and is a great way to mingle with the community.

Culinary Offerings: Be sure to inquire about special offerings such as Chef’s TastingThe Perfect PairingWeekend Brunch, and preparing a Gourmet Picnic Basket to go.

Compass Sports: For outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, visit Compass Sports, located on-sight, for complimentary E-bikes, Archery, and Pickleball.

Families: This family-friendly property offers plenty of outdoor space for the kiddos to explore, play in the pool, or join in on the activities offered by Paintbox, the resort’s kid club that caters to children ages 5-12 with half to full-day activities…and let’s say it as it is, when the kids are away, the parents can play.

Special Activities: Inquire about special experiences specific to this property, such as Beau, the Canine Ambassador, foraging for Truffles on the property, and the beekeeping program and honey tasting.

Cadillac Partnership Program: The resort has a house vehicle available daily on a first-come, first-served basis to take hotel guests to and from the Healdsburg Plaza. They also offer a complimentary Ride and Drive program through Cadillac, which allows you to borrow a Cadillac and do your own exploring in Sonoma; contact the Concierge for more information.

Venturing Out: When and if you choose to leave the property, a short trip to Downtown Healdsburg is highly recommended. The Healdsburg Plaza features a charming town square surrounded by quaint shops, good restaurants, and hosts various music and special events. If you have the time, many surrounding towns are worth a visit, such as Downtown Sonoma, St. Helena, Yountville, and Downtown Napa, to name a few. For wine-tasting adventures, connect with the hotel Concierge.

Summary

In summary, I had extremely high expectations for this property, and it did not disappoint!  This resort, by far, surpassed my expectations. I have become a loyal fan of the Montage Hotels and Resorts brand because they do not produce cookie-cutter resorts. Instead, each hotel reflects the culture and captures the essence of the regions they represent, creating a personalized guest experience.

The Montage Healdsburg is a gleaming example of this, with its secluded setting amid the native oak trees, rolling hills, and vineyards, and the environmentally conscious design choices that blur the lines between nature and man-made. 

However indulgent the property’s rooms, spaces, and amenities are, the true heartbeat of the property is the friendly and unassuming staff. I enjoy how the team interacts with the guests and the locals who come to hang out. The resort’s welcoming and inviting atmosphere encourages lively engagement creating an ambiance that resonates throughout the resort.

All I can say is that this property gives me all the right feels, and I’m going to call it…the luxe Montage Healdsburg is Sonoma County’s most extraordinary wine country retreat.

How A Spontaneous Leap Of Faith Led To The Opening Of A Luxury Hotel In Spain

Sometimes you hear a story that lifts your heart and spirit. A feel-good story that lights a little spark of hope and motivates you to believe you can aim a bit higher in your own life. This recently happened to me when I connected through LinkedIn with Christine Cunanan, Publisher/Editor of Travelife Magazine and Owner of La Esperanza Granada.

I do not personally know Christine, but I am always happy to connect with colleagues within my industry as you never know where it might lead…and little did I know that by connecting with Christine, I would discover this inspiring story of how her spontaneous leap of faith led her to purchase a private hacienda in Spain that she would transform into a small luxury hotel naming it La Esperanza Granada. And during these times, what a prophetic name it is as the meaning of La Esperanza is Hope.

Image Courtesy of La Esperanza Granada

While the majority of us amid the 2020 COVID 19 pandemic were in our sweat pants streaming Netflix, Christine Cunanan was on a flight when she had an out-of-the-blue idea to purchase a property in Spain. Arriving home from her flight and before even unpacking her bags, she went online and googled “properties for sale in Spain”. Upon finding a private hacienda online and purchasing it sight unseen, Christine renovated the property and had it operating as a small luxury hotel within a year. One short year after opening, the hotel has received glowing reviews, has recently been named one of the six best new hotel openings in Spain, and is currently a member of the prestigious L.V.X. Preferred Hotels and Resorts. Is anyone else besides me feeling a little lazy right about now?!

I am posting this story because I find it hopeful and inspiring. No matter how small or large our dreams are, shouldn’t we sometimes choose to take that leap of faith? Maybe one of us has a story like this in ourselves as well. I cannot begin to tell Christine’s story as well as she can, so if you want to read the full story of her journey, click the link (here). I hope you find it as uplifting and inspiring as I do. Happy Dreams my friends…and if you do have a similar story, please share it!

Brasada Ranch | Powell Butte, CA

Savvy travelers these days are looking for more than cookie-cutter vacations, they are looking for unique experiences that are authentic to the local area that offer life-long memories…and intuitive resorts are picking up on this trend.

Ranch-style properties have been offering luxury experiential travel adventures for years labeled as “glamping” {glamorous camping}. The appeal of glamping is being able to connect with nature and to experience the Wild West lifestyle without having to give up five-star accommodations and amenities.

One such property making its mark in this niche is Brasada Ranch located in Powell Butte, Oregon approximately 30 minutes from Bend. Located in central Oregon’s high desert, this region offers 300+ days of sunshine a year, unlike Oregon’s western region, creating a perfect playground for the outdoor adventurer.

Property

Brasada Ranch {Brasada} is a luxury ranch-style resort community set on a sprawling 1,800-acre property. The property was originally a sheep ranch in the early 1900’s and in 2006 it was purchased from the original family descendants which eventually developed into the ranch-chic resort and community that it is today.

Brasada holds the distinction of being named the first-ever newly constructed resort community in the United States to receive a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as well as being named the Best Resort in the Pacific Northwest: Reader’s Choice Awards 2015 by Condé Nast Traveler ~ for the second year in a row.

Check-in

As you approach the property, you can’t help but be impressed by the large, timber-framed entrance and the bevy of beautiful horses roaming the grounds. It’s a peaceful and serene scene, and you immediately know that you will be in for a unique experience.

Upon entering the main Ranch House, you are welcomed by the warm and inviting refined rustic elegance. A large stone, wood-burning fireplace stands front and center with four marvelous cowhide leather chairs just begging you to have a seat and get cozy.

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual and the staff greets you as though you’re an expected friend.

Because the property is spread out, you are offered the use of an electric golf cart for the duration of your stay. This was such a pleasant perk ~ who doesn’t love putting around in a golf cart! Of course there’s always the option of getting some exercise and walking.

Guest Rooms

@2015 Susan EdelThe Brasada Ranch guest accommodations are comprised of eight suites located in the Ranch House {main lodge} and 67 individual cabins.

The Ranch House is the main hub on the property with a reception area, a library space and the restaurant/bar, in addition to the suites.

The eight Ranch House Suites range in size from 400 to 900 square feet with King Beds. The four premium suites located above the main level offer grand views of the Cascade Mountain Range from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood {each suite is appropriately named after one of the mountain ranges} and have a soaking tub and private balcony. These suites offer incredible views for catching those stunning Pacific Northwest sunsets. If I were to stay in the Ranch House, the Mt. Hood Suite would probably be my choice as it is an upper-end unit with a large sitting area, fireplace and balcony perfect for admiring the high desert landscape during the day and star-gazing in the evening.

The four suites located below the main level do not have the soaking tubs but they have direct access to the private outdoor hot tub and fire pit which are only available to the Ranch House guests. These rooms also offer great views from the patio. To stay in the Ranch House guests must be 14 years and older. Includes daily housekeeping.

Staying in the Ranch House is a great option for special occasions such as wedding parties who want to be located in close proximity to one another, romantic getaways in a cozy room or people who prefer to be in the midst of the resort activities. Each suite has a Keurig coffee maker, microwave and small refrigerator.

The Sage Canyon & Cascade Cabins, on the other hand, offer the opportunity to enjoy individual accommodations with a private setting while providing all the conveniences of home. The cabins range from 1 to 3 bedrooms and have a living room with a fireplace, full kitchen, dining area, washer and dryer and some cabins have outdoor hot tubs. The cabins include housekeeping services every third day but I didn’t find that a problem having a dishwasher and the washer and dryer in the unit.

@2015 Susan EdelI personally enjoyed the privacy and serenity of staying in a cabin {#58}. My cabin overlooked a portion of the golf course and had a nice view of the Cascades in the distance. While sitting on my deck admiring the views, I saw some of the largest Jackrabbits I’ve ever seen. My cabin had an outdoor hot tub which was perfect for relaxing in the evenings under the stars.

The cabins are spaced out enough on the property to offer privacy and yet many of them are still close enough to be within walking distance to the main Ranch House…but of course, there’s always your golf cart, if needed.

The wonderful aspect of this property is the option to accommodate almost any situation whether it’s for a couple, an individual family, a group reunion, wedding party or corporate event. Brasada has the ability to customize the size of their cabins by connecting the rooms for larger parties or reducing spaces when needed. The Cascade cabins {#32-35} offer some of the best views on property are a great option for extended families and multi-generational travel because of how they can be configured to create one large “house” or to close the rooms off to create individuals units.

Dining and Events

Brasada has two restaurants, the Ranch House Restaurant and the Range Restaurant and Bar.

@2015 Susan EdelThe Ranch House Restaurant: is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, year round. The atmosphere is cozy and casual with a fun flair to it. A mix of regular table rounds along with high-top tables fill a communal area in front of the bar, and off to the side is a large, stone wood-burning fireplace with plush seating that beckons you over. The atmosphere is light and fun and the chatter of conversation fills the room with a warm, friendly vibe. It’s the type of place where once you get comfortable, you want to sit there and enjoy the ambiance for the entire evening. If you prefer a more intimate setting, sink yourself into one of the leather chairs in the Roadhouse Library to enjoy an after-dinner drink, a little reading or a nice conversation. However, don’t miss the opportunity to sit on the outdoor patio with the phenomenal views of the Cascade peaks at sunset.

The Ranch House Restaurant serves great comfort food such as fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and burgers that pair well with their selection of local microbrew beers. And if your palate desires something with a little more sophistication try the Bay Scallop Risotto, Imperial Stock Ranch Lamb Ragu, or Slow Cooked Pork Osso Buco paired with a great wine. For dessert, grab your s’mores packet of housemade marshmallows, rich chocolate and graham crackers and enjoy your delicious creation by the large, crackling firepit on the patio.

@2015 Susan EdelThe Range Restaurant and Bar: is open for dinner, dessert and drinks on a seasonal schedule {May-Sept} as well as for private parties. The restaurant is inspired by the farm-to-table concept and the menu is created based on the fresh ingredients available from many local farmers, orchards, and creameries and will change throughout the summer based on availability.

If you’re looking for an authentic homestead experience, this is where you will find it. From the moment the large wrought-iron Cowboy dinner bell rings, you know you’re going to be in for something good!

Guests not only gather here for the great food and to enjoy the indoor/outdoor dining space, but come to witness the incredible sunsets, roast s’mores around the oversized firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs and listen to the Cowboy Poet, or come to enjoy the weekly {seasonal} BBQ & Live Music Series. It’s also a perfect place to pass the time playing Bocci Ball, Pickleball, or any one of the many other games available.

For a really unique and memorable experience how about a private dinner up in the hills, complete with great food, ambient lighting, and with you arriving on horseback all prepared by Brasada…oh yeah, they will do that for you. Magical.

Brasada does not offer room service but there is a General Store onsite {used to be the town Post Office} that offers local and regional items along with everything you need to stock your cabin.

@2015 Susan EdelFor special events such as weddings or corporate get-togethers, The Barn is the perfect venue to for a rustic-chic gathering. Local Ochoco milled wood was used in the construction of barn, the large stone fireplace rises all the way up to the peaked ceiling capped off by a large skylight. The juxtaposition of the rustic elements and elegant light fixtures and beautiful table settings create an enchanting atmosphere.

Activities

Brasada offers so many exciting options and experiences that they have an entire adventure center dedicated for their guests, Brasada Adventures. And it’s no wonder with the area’s reputation of being the “outdoor playground of the West”.

I could sit here all day and rattle off all the exciting adventures that are available but in an effort to not inundate you, I’ll just give you some of the highlights such as the Equestrian Center, hiking, biking, fly fishing, sunset helicopter tours, canoe tours with lakefront beer tastings and so much more. Where else can you snow ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon? The opportunity for amazing adventures are endless here, truly.

Don’t want to leave the property {and who would blame you?}, then take advantage of all the options located directly onsite such as…

The Spa: offers 4 treatment rooms, along with a salon for mani’s and pedi’s. All guests can utilize the steam rooms and it’s worth your while to stop by to pick up one of the daily special cookies made only for the spa guests. The spa is open to the public, so do make reservations.

Fitness Center/Pool/Tennis/Volleyball:@2015 Susan Edel The property has a large fitness center with Cybex equipment and offers fitness classes including Yoga, Pilates and Zumba. There are two outdoor pools as well as an indoor pool for year-round swimming and water classes, as well as, tennis courts and sand volleyball courts.

Golf: Golf is one of the main attractions here. Brasada Canyon is an 18-hole Peter Jacobsen-designed championship golf course and is only available to the private members and Brasada Ranch guests. The course is revered for its privacy and is known as one of the most beautiful and enjoyable courses in the West. Play the course on your own or improve your game with some lessons from the golf pros on staff.

Kids Program: Brasada offers an excellent kids program for kids of all ages. What child doesn’t want to saddle up for a Cowboy cookout, roast housemade marshmallows, swim and slide at the pool…and they didn’t forget the Tweens, they can hang out at The Hideout and play ping pong, air hockey, foosball, watch movies and more.

The property also stocks their pond with 3 different types of fish, a perfect place to hone your fishing technique.

If you’re craving a little more city action, take a ride out to Bend and walk around downtown for some local shopping and restaurants, The Pine Tavern is one of Bend’s iconic restaurants but there are many great restaurants to choose from.

Sisters is another fairly close town known for its charming village setting and western themed downtown with unique shops, galleries and restaurants. Sisters is home to the Sisters Rodeo, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, Sisters Folk Festival and Sisters Starry Nights concert series. And be sure to stop by Sisters Bakery for a little treat.

For the snow ski enthusiast, Mt. Bachelor is located only 30 minutes away and is one of the largest ski areas in the Pacific Northwest.

@2015 Susan EdelIn Summary

In relative terms, this is still a fairly new resort and I believe they will continue to refine themselves as a luxury retreat. I would love to eventually see the Range Restaurant open year-round, room service would be a nice option for the cabins, and to place robes in the cabins…I always enjoy sipping my coffee outside on the deck in the early morning…but none of the above diminished my experience here.

Overall, this property exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I found the location and landscape to be beautiful, serene and relaxing. The Cascade peaks provide a gorgeous backdrop and the sunsets are stunning.

The atmosphere is so warm and welcoming you almost feel as though you are staying with good friends. The resort’s creative and authentic experiences let you leave with plenty of stories to tell and reminisce over, and isn’t that what it’s all about? This is the type of get-a-away that creates bonds between families or friends and wonderful life-long memories. And if I can offer any advice, don’t worry about spending too much time here, be more concerned about not spending enough time here!

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Farmhouse Inn | Forestville, CA

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There is a reason I titled my site No Ordinary Resort, it was my intention from the beginning to feature distinctive, boutique style hotels that offer personalized service, unique locations and experiences, and represent a one-of-a-kind property. And although I have larger properties listed on my site, The Farmhouse Inn falls into my initial concept precisely. This property may be small in size but it is huge in heart, style and luxe abundances.

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