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Bardessono 6526 Yount St., Yountville, Calif.; 707-204-6000; 62 rooms starting from $320.

Yountville is Napa Valley's gastronomic capital. Home to four Michelin-starred restaurants - Thomas Keller's The French Laundry its most famous - this little town has long been a requisite pit stop for diehard foodies.

With the opening of the Bardessono hotel, however, meals are no longer the main attraction. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains and within stumbling distance of the prized eateries of Washington Street, the Bardessono is Yountville's most well-positioned and well-meaning establishment. Sustainable luxury is its cornerstone. Its modernist architecture is built of salvaged trees, reclaimed stone and rammed earth. There's a living wall in the lobby, fair-trade coffee in the restaurant, and green-certified fabrics on the furniture. Stroll along one of its meandering stone paths into the organic gardens, and you may not be able to resist the apple and fig trees (fruit picking is encouraged here). The Bardessono is as green as five-star gets.

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From the stone sign and young vines that mark the entrance to the muted shades that adorn the design, this is an understated addition to the Napa Valley landscape. The lobby, a small sitting area with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an expansive courtyard, is accented by a wall of living plants and old photos of the Bardessono family, whose farmstead this once was.

Wood and water pull everything together: 62 guest rooms are spread over four sections (named Magnolia, Cypress, Olive and Birch) connected by streams and stone paths. Blocks of Tufa limestone, quarried 80 years ago for the Bardessono house, were reclaimed to construct the exterior, reception and dining areas. Trees that otherwise would have been discarded by local farmers were procured for siding (Monterey cypress), desks (California bay trees) and ceilings (redwood recycled from wine barrels). Solar panels generate green power and a geothermal system uses well water for heating and cooling. The overall feel is of sleek eco-minded minimalism.


In lieu of a gym, Orbea bicycles are available free, complete with helmets and a trail guide. A 22-metre lap pool is flanked by views of the surrounding mountains. Spa services can be taken in the wellness centre. For private pampering, massage therapists arrive at guest rooms, each of which is equipped with a massage table. After the service, a spa butler is on call to tidy up or draw a bath.

There's no business centre, but ample meeting space in four conference rooms. Guests have access to complimentary Wi-Fi and free phone calls within the mainland U.S.

The room

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Spacious and bright, with lots of glass, a gas fireplace and private terrace. Floors, doors and furniture are made from walnut trees that were no longer producing fruit. Linens and towels are organic. And instead of allergen-filled drapes, automated exterior Venetian blinds lower when guests aren't in the room to reduce heat from the sun. Sensors also adjust thermostats and turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied. An all-in-one media hub connects and charges laptops, iPods, iPhones, S-Video, USB and HDMI technology. Bathrooms are spa-like with soaking tubs, concealed massage tables and, in some rooms, an indoor shower/steam room and an outdoor shower.


The reception staff is cheery and helpful, but the concierge doesn't brim with enthusiasm. When I asked for directions to a Calistoga winery, she handed over a map and no advice. Stellar service comes from the young valet crew who speedily retrieve cars, handle bags and size guests up for bicycles.


Chef Sean O'Toole's kitchen salutes Northern California's natural bounty. Of the six dishes I tasted, standouts were the potato gnocchi with tomato, basil and parmesan and the diver scallops with zucchini grown in the Bardessono's own garden. The wine list features Californian and European labels and a respectable selection of biodynamic and sustainable wines. Breakfast is creative (oatmeal comes with fresh fruit compote and rosemary), but can get expensive. Opt instead for fresh croissants and café au lait from Thomas Keller's nearby Bouchon Bakery.

The verdict

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A top pick for epicureans and sybarites who want an eco-friendly weekend retreat; room rates in high season may be too dear for longer stays.

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