100 Boyles Boulevard
Sonoma, CA US 95416
By: Dave Grossman
Nestled in the heart of Sonoma, California – local to all Sonoma wine vineyards – the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa provided one of my more memorable hotel stays in quite some time. Often times, I check into a hotel, note the amenities, perhaps a notable restaurant, whether the room is modern and comfortable or old and uncomfortable (or a mix of the two), but rarely do I find it to be an “experience.”
The Fairmont Sonoma got things off on the right foot when I phoned from San Francisco the day of my stay. I’d just checked out of the Westin St. Francis in downtown SF and was looking forward to the sun that awaited in Sonoma. The front desk noted that the guests had checked out of my room already and they’d have housekeeping get it ready for my arrival. And it was (it’s one thing to offer an accommodation, but another entirely to follow through). Inside the room was a nice bottle of local red wine – on the house. Unfortunately, I was in town for a weekend-long wedding and wouldn’t have time to drink it. Nevertheless, for a hotel in the heart of wine country, this was a really nice touch.
The room was a touch on the small side, with a queen bed, but I was traveling alone and this was more than sufficient. I don’t think it would have even been an issue for two people – unless perhaps you ordered room service. I’m not sure where you’d eat that except perhaps on the bed!
The decor, as you can see in the pictures, was both modern and classic at once. The room had been renovated 5 years ago, with the flat screen TV mounted on the wall probably a more recent addition. Reception did let me know that only the main house has been fully renovated – they are still getting to the rooms in other buildings – so you may wish to call them directly after booking if you have a preference so they can at least note the request.
Internet is complimentary in the room (Ethernet only) if you are a Fairmont President’s Club member and that membership is completely free – signup at fairmont.com. This is nice given that most luxury brands insist on charging top dollar for in-room Internet while the budget brands give it away gratis. There is also wireless access in the lobby but, sadly, not by the pool.
The Spa, however, *was* extraordinary. I was short on time this weekend – again, I was at a wedding both days, for most of the days, so time to explore was short. The spa receptionist suggested a half-hour massage which would leave me 45-60 minutes for the Bathing Ritual. You see, everything you can bathe in, outside of the room, uses water from the underground springs – containing minerals good for your skin not normally found in a pool or spa bath. The Bathing Ritual consists of a dip in a warn pool, followed by a warmer (I believe around 98 degrees) pool, then a quick cold shower, a steam room, a sauna, and a final cleansing cool shower. Breaks for cold water are needed too, to avoid dehydration. The idea is for this to take 45 minutes with 15 minutes at the end in the relaxation room. You follow that with the massage (if you’ve booked one), which was wonderfully relaxing, and then I went outside to the two outdoor pools – both in the upper 90 degrees to get a bit more sun. The bath rituals and hot pools at the spa are $39 for hotel guests, but included if you have a same-day treatment. Now let’s see how my skin responds
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa also offers a complimentary health club (and free classes at the gym except Spinning) and they arrange wine tours for you (for the cost of the tour) via a tour operator – so you can hit several wineries without the worry of driving back.
The only minor annoyance was the self parking – of which there is not enough. Both nights I returned to find self parking, which is free, full – requiring a drive off to the restaurant parking lot just outside the gates. I don’t know what happens when that fills up but one would hope the valet would assist if that happened.
There’s no food served after 11pm, but if you’re adventurous there is a Mexican food truck setup on weekend nights at the (former?) gas station just out the entrance (quick left and then right). Hard to complain about $1.25 for an authentic taco although I realize not all of the Fairmont’s crowd will be that adventurous, or even up that late…