Learn Eden Rediscovered
Auberge du Soleil has long been renowned for its legendary views of picturesque vineyards on the valley floor anchored by majestic mountain vistas in the distance. This natural beauty is exclusively accessible for guests of the hotel in a more up-close and personal form via the property’s expansive gardens and nature paths, which, over the years, have undergone an extensive transformation.
“About five years ago we decided it was time to change our paradigm,” says George Goeggel, Auberge du Soleil Managing Partner. “We realized that the original landscape design included some aggressive, non-native species that should never have been planted in the first place.” So, working in one quadrant of the gardens each year, the team started all over again, ripping out the plantings that were non-native and looking at things from a new perspective, one that includes the goal of cutting water consumption by at least 50 percent. The olive grove remains the heart of the garden with native rock and stone used in a way that is both sustainable and serene. Grasses, too, have been added to the planting palette, with those such as rush grass additionally serving as an ecological biofilter, catching natural runoff from the mountainside that collects in underground pipes. “Our goal,” says Goeggel, “is to continue the harmonious marriage between responsibility and beauty.”
With a decidedly Mediterranean inspiration, the gardens reflect in that region with olive trees supported at their base by a ring of stones to keep them level. Besides the native redwoods and oaks that were planted, the garden has abundant boxwoods, myrtles, and lavender, which remind visitors of Europe’s beauty. “Napa is so similar to Provence,” says Goeggel. “It’s arid and mild here, so these plants thrive.” And so, too, do an array of sculptural succulents, which need little water and are found in guest rooms and on the terraces, creating a natural progression from the interiors to the exterior.
Over many years, the gardens surrounding the olive grove have also become known for the one hundred or so sculptures installed there, many created by California artists, in a range of sizes, styles, and materials. Yet Goeggel explains that the trees themselves are the garden’s true works of art. “It’s a little complicated because each of those one hundred olive trees is a sculpture in itself,” he says. “You don’t want to compete too much.”
Guests use of the property’s outdoor areas is multidimensional. Some love to relax in La Pagode, which, much like a Japanese teahouse, is a spot for reflection and respite, while Le Jardin is designed for intimate entertaining and redwood-lined fitness trails extend into the beyond. “We’re connecting our fitness program to the outdoor spaces, offering more qigong and yoga outdoors, and inviting guests to use the whole property as part of their fitness routine,” says Goeggel.
After all, versatility, too, is an important aspect of the garden’s plan. “Being here is a sensual experience,” says Goeggel. “It’s about aesthetics, but also tranquility, exploration, or reflection – really, how this space speaks to you depends on why you came. The best garden spaces just invite people to do what they feel.”