Leave your worries at the door – Gaige House & Ryokan combines chilled-out Californian vibes with artful Japanese design to create a restful retreat in vineyard-laden Sonoma Valley. Choose to bed down in the main house, where the rooms toe a line between contemporary Californian and Asian design, or plump for a zen-inspired Ryokan Suite, inspired by traditional Japanese inns and featuring cast-iron tea sets, granite soaking tubs with hinoki-wood ladles, and yukata robes to slip into afterwards. Outside, the Calabazas Creek trickles past karesansui rock gardens; by the pool and yoga-ready meditation room, a canopy of bamboo, oak and maple trees rustles above.
Get this when you book through us:
One $25 spa credit, a VIP wine tasting experience and 3pm late checkout (subject to availability)
11am, check-in from 3pm, but both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £170.60 ($233), including tax at 14.195 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $28.73 per room per night on check-in.
Rates include a daily wine-and-cheese hour and a buffet breakfast loaded with banana pancakes, artichoke quiche and freshly baked blueberry muffins alongside a spread of cereals, fruit and juices.
Spa treatments can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own ryokan-inspired room.
Due to Covid-19 precautions, the hotel's spa is currently closed; however, the pool remains open during this time.
At the hotel
Free WiFi. In rooms: TV, sound system, air-conditioning, minibar, tea- and coffee-making kit.
Our favourite rooms
Book a ryokan suite with a deep granite soaking tub – they come with Japanese accessories such as yukata robes, zori slippers and cast-iron tea-ceremony sets. Rooms in the main house have a more American lean – we like the Gaige Suite, which benefits from its lofty position on the top floor, with sweeping hillside views from the private terrace.
The secluded pool is in landscaped gardens, flanked by lanterns, sunloungers and swinging chairs. There’s a hot tub and firepit, too, for cooler evenings, and a Japanese-style meditation barn to one side.
The spa loft is tucked away at the top of the Edwardian house – choose from a selection of massages and facials, enjoyed in sweet solitude or as a couple.
Yoga kit – not only do Californians largely exist in leggings, but the creekside Meditation Room is open for guests to use at leisure.
On a nice day, there’s no beating breakfast on the terrace.
Get in the Japanese spirit – rock some traditional geta slippers and a yukata robe tied with an obi belt around the middle.
The guests-only Dining Room is the setting for American breakfast each morning – expect fresh-squeezed orange juice and warm continental pastries alongside daily specials such as goat’s cheese omelette, artichoke quiche and apple-spice cake.
There isn’t a bar as such, but there’s no harm in pretending – each evening after dinner, guests are invited to the Gathering Room for sake, port and sherry.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10am; wine and cheese hour is from 5pm to 6pm daily.
None, but each room has a minibar well-stocked with snacks and drinks.
Gaige House & Ryokan is nestled by Calabazas Creek in the quaint town of Glen Ellen, California. It’s in Sonoma County, which means you’re spoilt for wine-tasting spots (and Napa Valley is just down the road too).
The closest airport is in Santa Rosa, 20 miles away (35 minutes by taxi); flights arrive from several US cities including Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle. International flyers should use San Francisco International or Oakland International, which are two hours’ drive to the south; major airlines including British Airways and Norwegian fly from London.
If you’re planning on touring the region’s vineyards, a car is essential… arrange for a driver, too, if you’re extra enthusiastic on the wine-tasting front. You can hire from the airport in San Francisco and drive north to Sonoma around the east side of the bay, or via the Golden Gate Bridge and Route 101 for that classic-roadtrip vibe. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Slide into slippers and patter around the house, perhaps finding a nook by the fireplace to settle into with a book, or sampling the matcha cookies and sake in the lounge. Stroll the grounds at your own leisurely pace, pausing to admire the red maples, bristling bamboo and mighty oak trees. Unwind with yoga in the Meditation Room, near the Calabazas Creek – or book a spa treatment and while away the afternoon by the pool. And don’t forget Californian aperitivo – the wine and cheese hour every evening at 5pm.
Go up, up and away with an early morning hot-air-balloon ride with Napa Valley Aloft (6525 Washington Street, Yountville) – and you won’t be too sad when you come back to earth, because there’ll be a champagne breakfast waiting for you. Take cooking and wine classes at Ramekins (450 West Spain Street, Sonoma) – you can hardly fail to make something tasty with fresh Golden State bounty at your disposal. Jack London Village (14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen) is a quirky historical mill converted into a collection of independent shops and restaurants; it’s named after the author who lived in Glen Ellen for 11 years before his death in 1916.
One look across the miles of verdant vineyards in Sonoma Valley, and you’ll realise why wine tasting is top of the tourist to-do list. Winery-hop in your own car, or avoid the dreaded designated-driver duty by booking a private or group trip; call Smith24 for options.
Glen Ellen Star puts vegetables front and centre on their menu (golden beets with blood-orange oil and harissa crumble, brussel sprouts with brown-suger bacon marmalade), all plucked from Sonoma's fertile valley. Single Thread(131 North Street) is farm-to-table through and through – the award-winning restaurant is seven miles from the farm of the same name, which provides heirloom fruit, vegetables, herbs and much more straight into the hands of the talented chefs. Yeti Restaurant is an unassuming eatery with a choice-laden menu of Indian-Nepalese fusion dishes – the garlic naan is highly recommended.
Choose from seven variants on eggs Benedict at brunch favourite Garden Court Cafe (13647 Arnold Drive) or grab a pastry at French-owned pâtisserie Les Pascals (13758 Arnold Drive).
This is Wine Country: most places have zinfandel and chardonnay practically plumbed in. If you’re itching for a cocktail, drive to Starling Bar in Sonoma – there’s a good chance a local band will provide the soundtrack to your salty dog cocktail, too.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Japanese-inspired hotel in California and unpacked their zinfandel and zori slippers, a full account of their Wine Country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gaige House & Ryokan in Glen Ellen…
Albert Ebenezer Gaige would barely recognise the Queen Anne-style villa he built in 1890s Glen Ellen – and from the traveller’s perspective that’s probably a good thing, because back then it was a butchers. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see sake than sirloins in the Japanese-styled interiors, which are inspired by minimalist ryokan inns on the other side of the Pacific. Down in the rolling gardens by the Calabazas Creek, there’s a swimming pool between the ancient oaks and a meditation barn for rest and contemplation. In the loft, you’ll find a hush-hush spa, offering soul-soothing massages and revitalizing facials – or, create your own in-room onsen, ladling hot water onto tired muscles in the deep soaking granite bath tubs. Sure, Mr Gaige would be in for a surprise if he turned up in 2018. But it’s safe to say that he – like anyone who visits today – would quite happily slip into the stress-free Gaige House lifestyle, especially after a glass or two of Sonoma Valley’s latest vintage at the daily wine-and-cheese tasting.