Half a mile north of Jacuzzi and the Olive Press on Highway 121
is Cornerstone Place (707-933-3010). This imaginative collection of
shops, art galleries and wine-tasting rooms is graced with mature olive
trees, but the metallic, hip-industrial style of the buildings gives it
a just-finished, almost raw look.
Several shops, such as Asian-themed Opia, specialize in
sculptures and planters for home gardens. Also at Cornerstone Place are
more than 20 garden "rooms'' set off by hedges and fences. Each is
designed by a landscape architect, and each is distinctive.
Blue Tree 2, by Montreal's Claude Cormier, wraps a weathered
tree in eye-pleasing, sky-blue plastic balls. The Serenity Garden, by
Osaka's Yoji Sasaki, has finely raked sand and a view to the ridgeline
beyond. Cafe Blue Tree makes flavorful, healthful soups, salads and
sandwiches (lunch for two with bottled water: $16).
In hotel news,
MacArthur Place, located four blocks south of the Spanish-built plaza
in the town of Sonoma, has just finished converting two spacious guest
rooms into "garden spa suites.'' The 62-room hotel has long had a
professional spa for massages, facials, aromatherapy and the like, but
in the new garden spa suites, you do it yourself (800-722-1866).
The suites come with a hydrotherapy tub, while outside in the
private garden, a deep teak tub for two is nestled inside a wooden
roofed hut; the hut is open on one side. A waterfall and outdoor shower
give the suites a Hawaiian feel. In contrast to the sleek garden spa
suites are snug, country-style rooms in the 1850s manor house -- legacy
of a long-gone pioneer ranch.
Not new, but worth a visit, are MacArthur Place's seven-acre
grounds, with their whimsical, oversized sculptures, boxwood maze and
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa,
the valley's best-known hotel, has been a wine-country institution
since the Roaring '20s. It, too, has updated offerings (707-938-9000).
Chief among the updates is the revamped and expanded spa. It is
one of California's best hotel spas, with a lovely waiting area and
dramatic staircase, well-appointed treatment rooms and soothing
ambience. Spa treatments range from a 100-minute Swedish massage ($295)
to a personal, 50-minute nutritional counseling session ($135).
The hotel also boasts the superb restaurant Sante, which
features fresh, local produce, artisan cheeses and fresh fish, some
caught off Sonoma's Pacific coastline. Sante does fish and meats
expertly and has one of the valley's best restaurant wine lists.
(Dinner for two with wine: $150). Like most Sonoma restaurants, it
showcases Sonoma and Napa vintages -- 500 in all.
El Dorado Kitchen is another destination restaurant, run by chef Ryan Fancher, who formerly cooked at Thomas Keller's French Laundry.
Three years after remodeling and moving into a space in the El
once occupied by a chain restaurant, EDK lures a
prosperous clientele of wine country deal-makers. The contemporary,
French-influenced restaurant has a cool cocktail lounge adjoining the
dining room; both are typically packed, even on Mondays (when most
Sonoma eateries close).
Dinner for two -- grilled, sweet-fleshed sea bass with a
citrusy Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros -- goes for $130. Last June, EDK
opened Kitchenette, an adjoining bakery, cafe and take-out place. It
competes with Sonoma favorite the Basque Café, which in addition to
just-baked bread and pastry, sells full bottles of wine -- as does
Hey, it's wine country.
Just south of the plaza, Deuce
(707-933-3823) has installed executive chef Jameson Miller, who whips
up American comfort foods such as fried chicken and pot roast, a
contrast from the cutting-edge fare available up the road.
The down-home menu is out of sync with Deuce's stylish, curvy
Art Nouveau interior, but its California vintages, cheery staff and
casual tone (ribeye steak and prawn hot-pot dinner for two with a
Sonoma Pinot Noir: $110) make Deuce a local haunt.