The Pleasure Principle: Auberge du Soleil Provides Endless Delights to Heal and Restore
Aug 22, 2016
No matter how you feel before arriving at Auberge du Soleil, the moment you pass through the serene golden entryway, you feel wonderful. The heavenly smelling air, the soothing colors, and the unparalleled attention and care of the excellent staff all come together with one focused intention: to bring you pleasure.
When you are brought to your room and you slip off your shoes to let your travel-wear feet feel the cool, smooth floor, something loosens a notch. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause: is it the plump couch with its bright bolsters? Is it the faint scents of lavender, rosemary, and lemon? Is it the stunning views of the piney mountains surrounding the golden Napa Valley? Whatever delight speaks to you most – food, natural beauty, sensual touch – each seems to have the same result. It is all of a piece with the Auberge philosophy: pleasure is healing.
And many pleasures are to be found at the Inn of the Sun. Your room is entirely welcoming. With its open air veranda overlooking the valley, its fireplace by the inviting couch, and its warm tones, it seems to ask you to stop, slow down, and enjoy. The bed is a king-size expanse of the softest Italian linens with piles of tempting pillows. Everywhere you turn there is more to appease you. On the walls is art, real art: paintings and print chosen with an eye toward enriching your aesthetic experience. Says George Goeggel, managing partner of Auberge du Soleil, “We feel that original art gives the rooms more authenticity and informs our passion for food and wine with a very important third dimension: art and our commitment to the artists.”
To balance your appreciation of the art with more earthly pleasures, you might taste some of the complimentary treats in your refrigerator or sip the wine that’s been laid out with fruits and charcuterie. Or perhaps you will just stretch out on your veranda and gaze at the vista of mountains and golden valley.
When – and if – you’re ready to emerge from the comfort of your room, a variety of opportunities await. A simple call to the concierge can conjure up a hot-air balloon ride, a mountain bike excursion, a vineyard tour: the choices are limited only by your imagination. You can keep an eye to the evening as well, and request a romantic turn-down service or other exquisite luxury. For now, though, perhaps you would like to explore.
Your first stroll might take your down by the olive groves to the sculpture garden. As you meander along the path under the smoky gray leaves of the olive trees through the lush vegetation, plantings intoxicate your senses. Lavender and rosemary perfume the air, and the profusion of oaks, maples, and luxuriant under-growth gives you a sensation of delightful wildness. Water burbles in a nearby stream, frogs croak somewhere in the distance, and you’re suddenly surrounded by whimsical sculptures, from flowers of pink glass to giant metal animals.
As you walk you will pass La Pagode, an Asian-inspired structure among the trees, where you might want to relax later with a massage, specialty treatment or a very private dinner à deux. The walls slide open, so you can enjoy the surroundings trees. On a rainy day – if you’re lucky enough to get one – you can watch the rain pour down as clouds hover over the distant vineyards. Be sure to wend your way to La Plage – one of five pools dotted across the property – whose renovation has created a veritable temple to beauty. La Plage and its adjacent hot tub welcome with beautiful mosaics; the terraces step down toward the picturesque valley with the same lovely rustic charm that you’ll find everywhere at Auberge du Soleil, in its most perfect expression.
Now that you’ve gotten the feel of the place, your time is for you to fill: what’s your pleasure? If you’re truly dedicated to pleasure and relaxation, Auberge Spa is in order. There you can change into a luxuriously thick robe and ease into your slippers – that is, if your feet are willing to give up the radiant-heated floors. Perhaps you’d like to sample the nuts and dried fruits set out before the crackling fireplace while you contemplate your beautiful surroundings. Enjoy chilled water with limes, lemon, and cucumbers, or maybe you’re more of the sparkling wine-and-chocolate type. On their sleek labels, the chocolates say what really matters here: renew, vigor, blush, sexy, and – of course – pleasure.
Surrounding you is the beauty of the treatment rooms, each of which has an adjoining outdoor space – the couples rooms have a tub big enough to share. Your therapist will greet you with a scented neck pillow, and lead you away to ultimate relaxation. Afterward, there are the Spa’s pools. Bliss out in the steam room with brief escapes to the thrilling briskness of the cold spring or alternate with the hot spring. The warm spring, though, is perhaps the most inviting with water at an easy 97 degrees, an infinity edge spilling over toward the canyon. Sun washes over you, while behind you the olive trees reach for the sky. Hawks wheel overhead, Napa Valley stretches in front of you, and the water eases you into a state bordering on limpness. Yet, as with every pleasurable indulgence here, you emerge not spent but restored. And ready, no doubt, to eat.
Ah, the food! You can choose from the warm informality of the bar, where you can relax in easy intimacy by the fireplace and devour anything from an excellent hamburger accompanied by french fries to the freshest of salads while you sample from the inspiring wine list – expertly curated wines by the glass – fully embracing its Napa Valley credentials. But no matter how casual your tastes, you should not allow a visit to Auberge du Soleil to go by without availing yourself of the delights to be found in its restaurant. Each table in an island of golden candlelight in an elegant room, beautiful but without stiffness. You can nestle by the cozy fireplace or dine on the terrace, from where you can watch the last fingers of sunlight disappear as you breathe in that healing Napa air.
Your meal here – any meal here – will be enhanced by the care and attention of the staff. You might be treated to a passionate exhortation from the restaurant manager to try the Schramsberg, a sparkling wine from a local vineyard whose origins are conjured up by descriptions of the beauty of its cellars and the charm of its owner (perhaps you ought to visit it tomorrow). The waitstaff is all kind attention as they guide you through the thrilling menu: Will it be the sautéed skate or the risotto? The chestnut soup or the pan-seared foie gras? The roasted lamb or the venison? And yes, they can certainly procure from their astonishing cellars that almost impossible-to-find Cabernet you’ve been searching for. Perhaps you’ll indulge in the tasting menu, which, with its carefully paired wines, suggests an almost perfect creation of French-influenced California cuisine.
You can stroll back to your room beneath the stars, amazingly bright against the quiet Napa darkness, and enjoy a long soak in your tub (made for two). Then indulge in some late-night television, or better yet, light the thoughtfully placed candles, dim the lights, and relax your way into that expansive, delicious bed.
And far too soon, you will be trying to make sure you don’t miss all the glorious treats Auberge du Soleil has to offer before you leave: lunch on the terrace overlooking the valley, a visit to some of those amazing local wineries, an evening where you finally order that tempting risotto, a late-night dip in the stunning swimming pool.
And when you do finally have to leave, it will be with all these restorative pleasures richly experienced. As Goeggel says, he hopes each guests leaves, “rejuvenated, recharged, reconnected, and just a little bit more at peace.”
Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road
For reservations, call (707) 963-1211