Review: The Lodge at Sonoma
Family-Friendly at Every Turn
By Kathy Chin Leong

Let’s get right to the point: The Lodge at Sonoma isn’t just a place where you say, “I had a good sleep.”  You are more apt to proclaim, “I had a great time!”  This is one of those resorts where the staff feels that curating a wonderful journey for you is as essential to providing excellent care and service.  And for what you pay, less than $200 on a bargain day on a bargain website, its variety of amenities means that you can park the car and take advantage of treats and services that would normally be charged per item on an a la carte basis.  But full disclosure, there is a $37 per day resort fee. 

We love options.  You can enjoy a few days with the kids by doing as much or little as you want.  Play in the pool, warm up in the outdoor hot tub, or let go of tension at the on-site spa. The staff during our January weekend romp was extremely friendly and helpful, from recommending where to wine taste to driving us into town via its free shuttle service. 

Much to Do
Yes, there is much to do on this boutique landing pad. Even though there are a lot of rooms, 182 to be precise, when we stayed during off-season, the tranquility of the grounds with the backdrop of the Sonoma mountains felt like we were in a family-run inn in Italy. However, I was told that in the summer, the popular swimming pool scene with kids has a totally different feel as little ones certainly are known to squeal in delight.  Choose your bookings and times to visit wisely.  

The recent refurbishment has swapped out everything and we witnessed an upscale, airier appearance to the place, from the elegant furnishings in the lobby to the plump pillows in the bedrooms.  So the hotel gets high marks on the look and feel that evokes a 21st century wine country flair with plenty of white walls and light hues throughout. I know some folks complained on TripAdvisor regarding the remodel, but in my book, the nice refresh is a welcome change since the last time I stayed here ten years ago. 

There is a modern metal, globe-like chandelier in the high-ceiling lobby with French doors leading out to the pool area, and you’ll have no trouble spotting that tempting fireplace where you can warm up and read a book if you are so inclined. Plenty of seating areas creates extremely cozy zones.  Close your eyes and listen to acoustic tunes by one of the Sonoma’s fine musicians on Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes, too, a masseuse is on hand to provide free ten-minute massages.  And, like the infomercial says, “but wait, there’s more…” "

A winemaker ambles by each evening for the wine hour which is paired with local cheese and crackers and dried fruit. He or she will usually bring a red and a white, and the vintage is poured for hotel guests in a room just off the reception area.  Be sure not to miss this treat.   In the afternoon, a cookie, brownie or lobby snack awaits.  In the morning, fresh baked cinnamon buns and coffee or tea greet bleary-eyed guests. No diets this weekend, okay? 

Complimentary bikes, stationed in the front of the hotel, give guests freedom to explore the area. To get your bearings, first cycle to the quaint downtown shopping area only ten minutes away. The town is very safe, but do be aware of the weekend drivers who may not see you on their blind side.  It’s an easy ride, and you can lock up your bike at the main square and use your complimentary wine tasting cards at a few of the wine rooms nearby.

Hikers will be delighted to know that the Lodge provides daily guided hikes. We were anxious to join this complimentary two-hour excursion as we had been eating just a little too much the night before.  We gathered in the morning and left by 9 a.m., a decent hour to hoof the trail. What a lovely day it was to be out on in the arms of nature. Having a guide was superb as she pointed out the different mountain ranges, the names of the trees, and historical sites that thoroughly engaged our group of eight in banter.  We ended the hike, descending on the Sonoma Mountain Cemetery where we saw headstones dating to the 1800s. Going about three miles up and down hills and ravines, nothing was too strenuous, but the challenge was still there.  It was exciting to discover something new and not too far away from our homebase at the lodge.

The Rooms
The hotel features 182 rooms divvied into several categories: rooms, suites, and cottages. All are lovely, so no matter which one you choose, you won’t be disappointed. The suites and cottages are larger, but the small rooms are just as attractive since the entire resort went through a makeover a few years ago.  Many rooms feature a fireplace, and if you get the one-bedroom cottage, you can bring the children and gather in the big dining area and living room for games or watching TV as a family.  White linens and duvet comforters, gray carpeting, vine artwork, and flat screen TVs (plus free WIFI) seem to reach out and embrace you quite after a day of imbibing. The bathrooms are great; some come with an ample soaking tub as well.  

The Restaurant
The night we ate at the Carneros Bistro, many locals were on hand to enjoy a meal.  While it is not in the heart of the town, the eatery filled with tables and some booths features excellent fare at excellent prices. For example, while every chef these days makes a Brussel sprouts side dish, not everyone fries it up with honey bourbon glaze and Nueske’s bacon for only $13.  The wagyu beef entrée with morel cream sauce was a suprising $49 whereas other places have priced it at $80 or more.  And the chef is on a hot streak here as he sources local Sonoma bounty which is truly abundant. He can incorporate ingredients that were picked that morning. 

Raindance Spa
Now this place is special. It’s not a megaplex with a million treatment rooms. It is small, and just right for the area.  If you have booked a treatment, you have full access to the place.  Hint: sometimes the resort offers discount coupons for treatments, so do take advantage of it.  You can ask for a complimentary tour to help you decide!  Come on a sunny day to bask in the exterior offerings such as the outdoor soaking tubs and the outdoor cabanas. Treat this as your ME time or girlfriend getaway or a bonding session with your 18-years-old-and-up daughter.  The tropical foliage will make you feel like you are in Hawaii or some other exotic paradise. Treatments include massages, wraps, and facials.  Of note is the Lemongrass or Lavender Luxury, both signature offerings that feature scrub, wrap, and massage at 80 minutes for $240.   

Bottom Line
For a weekend getaway that is close to the Bay Area, The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa (yes, that’s a mouthful) is an ideal destination to spa, stay, eat, and play. Walking and biking distance from downtown, the hotel features so many services and options that you will have to return to complete the rest of your stay.
****
When You Go
The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa: www.marriott.com
Location: 1325 Broadway, 707.935.6600.
Rates: $200 and up. $37 resort fee daily.

 


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