Wine Country Getaways
By Kathy Chin Leong

If you are lucky to carve out a weekend for yourselves, and you've got someone to babysit the kids, taking a trip to the wine country in Napa Valley is an ideal way to get some well-deserved R&R.

For my husband Frank and I, escaping to Napa is like going to Tuscany. Bucolic vineyards, blue skies, and low-key pace of the neighboring towns during off-season is a luxury we try to indulge in annually.

Here are a few places we have road-tested over the course of a decade. We have celebrated anniversaries and birthdays at these inns, and we always look for another reason to return.

  • Scarlett's Country Inn, Calistoga : The first time we visited Scarlett, it was 1996, and we loved the graciousness of this precious innkeeper and grandmother. Then we went back again last year, and she's still there. Friendly and unpretentious, Scarlet told us this B&B is an 1890's farmhouse house where she raised her kids. Over the years, she has turned this farmhouse, plus its separate cottages, into 3 inviting and relaxing bedroom suites.

    She's got a pool and jacuzzi out in the back, and there are lawn chairs and hiking trails to enjoy behind the premises. A bird aviary, hammock, and quaint sitting area makes it one of our favorites. If you have to have television, there are TVs in a few of the rooms. Breakfast is a yummy continental feast with pastries and fruit. Scarlett's, 3918 Silverado Trail, Calistoga. Call 707-942-6669 or look up www.scarlettscountryinn.com .

  • Deer Run Inn, St. Helena : This hideaway up in the hills of St. Helena is a zen-like retreat. We discovered Deer Run Inn a few years ago while driving up this windy road. The charm of the Deer Run Inn are the 3 wood-shingled cottages that speckle the hilltop. Rooms are priced at a reasonable $160 to $195 per night. Each room, a different size, has ultra comfortable beds, a sitting area, and bathroom with all the shampoo amenities you need. A few cottages have fireplaces and balconies.

    Another word about the beds: each time we visit, we have an amazing night of sleep. These mattresses seem almost molded to the contours of your body. Feather pillows and comforters also make this sleep experience exquisite. I think they must sprinkle pixie dust on the beds before guests arrive.

    What we also love about the place is the wooded forest. You are surrounded by a host of trees, and up here, the Deer Run represents the epitome of relaxation. You wake up to sunlight gently filtered through the branches. A hot breakfast can be brought to your room upon request, or you can go and join the other visitors in the main house. In the summer, you can go swimming in the small pool in front. Deer Run Inn, 3395 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena. Call 707/963-3794.

  • Bartel's Ranch B&B : We stayed at Bartel's during off season in February, and got a great rate. Instead of paying $400 per night, we paid $200. We had a huge room, jacuzzi tub, fireplace, and lovely deck area overlooking vineyards. Located high in the hills of St. Helena, Bartel's is a single-story, widespread ranch style B&B with four rooms ranging $235 to $455. It takes about 10 minutes to drive into town.

    The weekend we stayed, we were the only ones there, and the owner was out of town, so we didn't meet her at all. The main house has a HUGE living room, at least 1,000 square feet with a dining area, billiards, ping-pong table, library nook, and large television. It was strange eating breakfast by ourselves. The resident cook served us and stayed in the kitchen the entire time.

    Bartels offers bicycles for its guests to use for free, and you can have access to an in-room masseuse if you wish for a fee, of course. There is a lake nearby and so hiking and picnicking is very pleasant here. Bartels Ranch, 1200 Conn Valley Rd., St. Helena. Call 707/963-4001 or log onto www.bartelsranch.com .

  • Forest Manor, St. Helena : How fitting for me that this is a literary B&B, each room here is named after a famous writer such as Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickenson, William Shakespeare. Priced at $175 to $395 per night, the establishment looks like a large English tudor estate and is tucked high in the woods, away from the crowds. Rooms are generously sized, especially the Shakespeare room at 900 square feet. The web site has great photos of each room.

    Breakfast was wonderful and plentious, but now there are new owners, so I keep my fingers crossed that the breakfast is still wonderful. On warm days, you eat out on the patio overlooking the spa and pool.

    Manicured grounds are gorgeous. Plenty of seating allows guests to spend a day reading favorite books and magazines. Flowers, trees, bushes and views of the pool and spa are terrific picture spots. You can also go hiking on the premises, but do be aware that poison oak runs rampant. If you like the outdoors and solitude, Forest Manor is a great pick. Forest Manor, 415 Cold Springs Rd., St. Helena. Call 800/488-0364 or look up www.forestmanor.com .

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