Snooze In Sonoma.
In the heart of Northern California wine country, just forty-five minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is the historic town of Sonoma.
Relax on the park-like grounds.
And here, just off Broadway at MacArthur Street, you’ll find a historic inn set on a country estate of six acres featuring lush landscaping, rose gardens, ponds and water fountains. This is MacArthur Place Country Inn & Spa, recently awarded AAA’s prestigious 4-Diamond rating.
While checking in we meet MacArthur Place’s CFO (Chief Feline Officer), A.J. A cat of Russian Blue heritage, A.J. pays little attention to us but is clearly in charge; A.J. has his own business card, sitting in a separate holder on the counter along with that of MacArthur Placegeneral manager, Bill Blum.
Sonoma wine is featured in the library.
We’re just in time for MacArthur Place’s daily complimentary wine-tasting, served with various cheeses and fruits in the Library. Peruvian Raquel, wine and cheese hostess and retired Cordon Bleu chef, tell us, “Sonoma is the birthplace of winemaking in California.”
This afternoon she pours Buena Vista Estate-bottled chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Buena Vista Winery is a neighbor, and the hotel also offers guests free tasting tours of its winery.
Restful decor in a cottage room.
Our spacious guest suite is in the Oak Cottage, one of several cottages nestled throughout the grounds. The pillow-topped king-size bed faces a sitting area that features a cushioned window seat, loveseat, original commissioned artwork, and a 27-inch flat screen television with surround sound mounted atop a full-size fireplace. Above the wetbar we find a DVD player, and the desk features dual line data port phones. The oversized bathroom contains every luxury: a hydrotherapy tub (plenty of room for two), a walk-in European shower, and marble-topped wide, dual sink counter. The closet contains plush bathrobes, iron and ironing board.
The extraordinary suites.
Just past the bathroom and closet, a back door leads to a private patio complete with chaise, table and chairs, and an outdoor shower enclosed in a black-and-white striped tent. In September, it’s a beautiful evening to sit outside and enjoy an evening cocktail to the accompanying sounds of the last crickets of summer.
A comfortable guest room.
Sixty-four guestrooms and suites are situated throughout the estate. Suzanne Brangham, developer of MacArthur Place, completely restored the main house to feature ten spacious guestrooms. She then made sure the newly built cottages containing additional guestrooms replicated the look of the Manor House, maintaining its architectural heritage. In front of our cottage is a large bird-house-designed fountain of tinkling water, and our front porch has its own whimsical statue of a family dog, head cocked to welcome its owner.
An oversized room includes dual sinks.
MacArthur Place was originally the estate of David Burris, a prominent Missouri farmer and landowner. Here in Sonoma, along Nathanson Creek, he built a 300-acre working ranch with a hay crop and vineyards, cattle, fruit orchards, and prized trotters used for transportation in the horse-and-buggy era. David Burris also founded Sonoma Valley Bank, at first conducting business out of his home’s first floor corner library.
Enjoy a fireside view of flatscreen TV.
The 16-room, two-story house, set off from the street by the original white picket fence, dominates the property and was home to nine Burris children. With its wooden pegs and square nails, the house is believed to be one of the oldest Victorian homes in Sonoma. Five generations of the Burris family lived here, and their home was known for gracious hospitality and gala events. In 1971 Anna Burris Welch sold the estate to Howard and Jane Good, who enhanced the gardens and maintained the estate for 26 years.
The Chess Garden.
In 1997, Suzanne Brangham contracted with the Goods to create a country inn. The result, MacArthur Place, has been honored by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation. The 20 buildings comprising today’s MacArthur Placefeature Greek revival Victorian-style design, with individually hand-carved spindles on porch and balcony railings. Shutters duplicate those of the original mansion. Creative gardens—such as the enlarged chess board of the Chess Garden—and art paths, featuring unique sculptures from local artists, link the buildings.
Saddles, MacArthur Place’s signature restaurant, is our choice for dinner. The original estate barn (circa 1857 and said to be fashioned after Thomas Jefferson’s barn in Monticello) houses this authentic steakhouse, which specializes in corn-fed 100% U.S.D.A. prime beef, steaks, chops, and a variety of fresh seafood. Wine, of course, is from Sonoma and NapaValleys. The décor is distinctly sophisticated equestrian: restored original hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, and white-clothed tables with comfortable leather chairs. Life-size paintings of horses in their stalls are spaced among authentic barn doors. Wrought iron chandeliers and sconces balance with soft light the flickering flames from the large brick fireplace.
Our server, who wears jeans and a crisp white shirt, starts us off with real baking powder biscuits in lieu of bread. We enjoy Baked Oysters Sonoma with spinach, pancetta & Béarnaise with cognac; Saddles Salad with baby greens, candied walnuts, goat cheese 7 cider vinaigrette; the 14-ounce Ribeye (medium rare is my choice) and oven-roasted prawns in caper-butter. The grilled lamb sirloin with cabernet demi-glace, garlic mashed potatoes & market vegetables is also an excellent choice. Dessert presentations include Banana Bread Pudding and Apple or Pumpkin Gelato.
Splendid meeting facilities. (Below.)
Saddles’ Martini Bar serves more than a dozen choices of oversized martinis for guests who sit in seats fashioned from real saddles. A collection of cowboy boots decorates both entry and bar.
Besides Saddles and the Martini Bar, the rest of the 5,000 square-foot barn retains the same equestrian ambience and décor, while being transformed into a magnificent conference and event center. This is a terrific venue for private corporate meetings and social events. Conference rooms, beautifully decorated and appointed, can accommodate groups from 8-80 people. The Rodeo, Stetson, Tack rooms or Patio provide a great setting for special events. Saddles’ Executive Chef is always available to design special menus, consisting of some of the finest local produce and fresh meats, for any size group.
Breakfast buffet fit for royalty.
Next morning, we discover complimentary continental buffet breakfast is served in the Martini Bar, where Bloody Marys are served in Western boot-shaped glass mugs. Against the dark wood wainscoting, the long table is laden with three kinds of cereal, assorted fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs and choices of muffins and bagels. Served until 10 a.m., this breakfast proves to be beyond “continental.”
Macarthur Place’s swim experience.
No stay at MacArthur Placewould be complete without a visit to the Spa Botanical Garden. The spa building itself was the estate’s original pool house. The Spa provides the latest in specialized garden body treatments, including massages, facials, scrubs, and wraps. Here you’ll find men and women’s locker rooms, a co-ed steam room, outdoor heated pool, whirlpool and fitness center. Specialized aromatherapy treatments are based on the SpaBotanical Garden’s fruits, flowers and herbs. Unobtrusive signs in the garden relate to different therapy herbs, proclaiming that “Essential oils are the life force of the planet.” These oils are highly-concentrated extracts from plants, flowers and herbs that produce a wide variety of beneficial effects.
Massage room with custom wall mural.
In February, 2007, two Garden Spa Suites were added to MacArthur Place, and several wine-inspired spa treatments have been crafted to enhance the personal Spa Suite experience. GM Bill Blum says, “Guests have the option of indulging in a Red Wine Grape Seed Bath in the indoor 20-jet hydrotherapy tub while gazing at a glowing fire in the fireplace, or soaking in a Chardonnay bath in the outdoor teak wine tub in their own private Japanese teahouse.”
In addition to serving guests, MacArthur Place is, since its inception exactly ten years ago, committed to serving its community as well. Opening events ten years ago included functions for the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation and the Sonoma League of Historic Preservation. “MacArthur Place has strived to be a good employer and member of the community” states general manager Bill Blum. Raquel says, “We work like a family here.” Blum adds, “We try to be good neighbors, support our local non-profits and build good relationships with business owners and retailers in Sonoma and throughout the wine country. We’ve also enjoyed taking a strong role in helping Sonoma become a more sustainable community.”
The Inn sits on 6 acres of lushness.
Click for more information on the Sonoma Green Hotel program—a project begun with the idea that MacArthur Place, in becoming a more sustainable hotel, can be a model for others—check out Blum describes their collaborative effort. “We have a sustainability committee to engage the employees to make it part of our culture.”
MacArthur Place is within a healthy walking distance to Sonoma’s central Plaza, a National Historic Landmark since 1961. Or you can ride a complimentary bicycle provided by the hotel. Several historic sites surround the Plaza: the Mission San Francisco de Salano, the home of General Vallejo and Jack London Park. In Sonoma, historically referred to as the Valley of the Moon, you’ll find a variety of fun activities like hiking, biking and jogging trails, golf, tennis, motor sports at Sears Point Raceway, tasting rooms and winery tours, boutique shopping, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning high above the valley.
Savor the fruit of the vine.
We couldn’t leave Sonomawithout a visit to the Buena Vista winery to see their historic Press House Tasting Room and Cellar, aptly located on Old Winery Road. Other nearby wineries are Valley of the Moon, Kendall-Jackson, Sebastiani, and Ferrari-Carano.
A 2008 Zagat survey rated MacArthur Place tops among U.S. Hotels, Resorts & Spas. Suzanne Brangham says, “Our guests have been our best advocates, referring their friends and returning every year.”
Visitor Adrienne Wyman, from the nearby town of Glen Ellen, says, “If there were such a thing as a 25-star hotel, this would be it.”
Macarthur Place Inn and Spa
29 E. MacArthur Street.
(707) 938-2929 or toll free at (800) 722-1866
Fax: (707) 933-9833
— Feature by Carolyn Hamilton, Jetsetters Magazine Adventure Editor.