Review
The Honor Mansion Inn & Resort, Healdsburg
B
y Kathy Chin Leong

Let me tell you. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a dozen multi-colored koi sucking fish pellets out of the palm of your hand. These friendly critters are so congenial they even allow you to pet their heads. If they had hands they would even let you shake them.

Maybe their friendly demeanor comes from Steve and Cathi Fowler, owners of the Honor Mansion Inn & Resort who’ve raised koi for years in the soothing waterfall pond on the premises.

Located right on Grove street on four acres of land, the inn rests near bucolic vineyards and hills. The charming Healdsburg inn cordially invites you to take in the fragrance of its flower strewn grounds and to fall into its feather beds without abandon. Indulge in an afternoon wine hour featuring labels from boutique wineries and homemade appetizers. Maybe tonight you can sample the artichoke or sundried tomato spread with crackers.

The mansion crowns the edge of Healdsburg, a quaint country town with an upscale downtown sequestered north of Sonoma. In an age of knock-off designer purses and synthetic lawns, the Honor Mansion is the real Mccoy, a delicately restored two-story 1883 colonial abode straight out of the pages of Gone with the Wind. While Scarlett won’t be swishing out the door to embrace you, you will meet Cathi and Steve who will offer you a hearty handshake and gracious welcome.

The Fowlers purchased this property in 1994 and have lovingly transformed the former apartment dwelling into a honeymooners haven of anonimity. "We never stayed at a B and B before purchasing this property," says Cathi. "We stayed in Four Seasons and Ritz-Carltons, and so we knew we wanted this place to be a small resort inn that’s very high end."



THE GROUNDS


Serenity blankets the widespread resort grounds where you can enjoy as many activities as you want or relax without guilt. Active couples can swim in the outoor solar heated pool or experience a massage in one of the outdoor spa pavilions. Less than two years ago, the couple purchased a deep lot behind the inn. to create a resort like feel. They transformed it from rubble into a fantastic manicured rose garden and vineyard with tennis courts, bocce ball, a putting green designed by a pro golfer, basketball court, croquet field.

So, practice shouting "Love –all" at the tennis courts. Learn croquet or bocce ball on the finely manicured lawns. You can also go jogging on the trail on the premises.


THE ROOMS

The Fowler’s dream escape features 13 rooms, including one cottage. Decorated with simple and clean-lined European furnishings, the light pastel palette echoes the tranquility of the gardens. When you step into the room, what hits you immediately is the grand bed, be it a sleigh bed or four- poster or canopy. Each suite is blessed with snowy European linens, Egyptian towels, feather beds and down comforters. Bedside tables hold jars of fresh spring water, direct from the local spring 9ck). At bedtime, the housekeeper will arrive to turn down your linens and place mints atop the feather pillows. Bathrooms come equipped with hair dryers, makeup mirror, and, like it or not, bath scales.

Old world charm meets modern day amenities in this wine country bed and breakfast. If high-tech conveniences speak to your Silicon Valley soul, take heart: you can relax with your in-room television, CD player, and a VCR with a selection of movies. Rooms and suites all feature central air-condition and heating.

Rachet up the amor factor by reserving a suite with a spa tub and fireplace. For privacy, check into the separate Squires Cottage or the Tower, a two-story suite that was formerly the water tower. The Vineyard Suites, Garden Suites, and Tower, says Fowler, features spa tubs out on the patio deck.

DETAILS, SERVICES


Making the mansion rise on the pamper thermometer is its attention to sensory details inside and out. Inside, the rooms and common areas have period reproduction antiques. At 3 p.m. daily, you can smell fresh baked cookies and enjoy them right out of the oven. Outisde, you can sit on a bench and gaze at the koi pond. The owners have planted over 140 rosebushes, many of them scented.s Wisteria wines hug the walls, an organic herb barden and veteable garden is spread among the flowers. "It’ very floral here, and there is something blooming all the time," says Fowler.

You’ll find unique services here to keep you happy and comfortable. The refrigerator is stocked with complimentary sodas and bottled water. The pantry features homemade cookies. If you got something, call the front desk and ask for the "Butler’s Basket". It is filled with toothbrushes, floss, even bathing suits. When you book ahead of time, you can check online for its in-room extras such as chocolate covered strawberries, roses, or champagne. The inn is happy to accommodate special requests as well.


BREAKFAST

Breakfast is more than coffee and a spartan roll, it is a monumental event to be scrapooked. Small round tables are dresssed with crisp white linens, china, and exquisite silver. Entrees change daily. If you come on a Saturday, you can indulge in the signature Mansion eggs benedict which is actually made as a souffle and baked.

Everything is so exquisitely presented, it appears photo quality, ready for publication for a cover of Bon Appetit. Crackers are lined in descending and ascending order, no more than a centimeter apart as if measured by a cooking instructor. The inn also provides complimentary useage of its expresso/cappuccino maker around the clock.

VISITORS


Honor Mansion, with accolades from major magazines such as Travel & Leisure and Robb Report, has been, until now, one of the best-kept secrets of the Bay Area. Most of the inn’s customers come from the East Coast, southern states, the mid-west, Europe and Asia. A couple from Ontario recently booked nine nights, stays Fowler. A couple from Dublin is requesting eight. Stays of five days or more are not uncommon, she adds. "We don’t see too many people from the Bay Area because we do require a minimum of two to three nights on weekends. And when people want to book at the last minute, we are often full." However, weekdays are easier to land, and coupes aiming for a meaningful weekend after the nuptuals should plan several months ahead.

In the fall, surroundings are exquisite. Zinfindel grapevines put on autumn coats and the dogwood trees glow orange and yellow. "The weather is great in the fall. It’s in the 80s everyday and cools off in the evening."

Perhaps the biggest testimony of this intimate lovenest is the fact that couples return with babies who have been conceived on the premises. "People get so excited to tell us they have a newborn and want to bring them to show us." This has happened several times, notes Fowler. "We don’t encourage babies, but it’s hard to say no."

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NOTEWORTHY DETAILS:

Honor Mansion Resort Inn
14891 Grove St., Healdsburg; 800/554-4667
www.honormansion.com .
Rates $230 to $575 per night.

 

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