Set beside the scenic Silverado Trail, on the grassy banks of the Napa River, Milliken Creek Inn is a classic clapboard country home, with the added luxuries of huge hydrotherapy tubs and daily visiting vintners eager to share their wares.
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Chocolate-covered strawberries and a quarter-bottle of champagne upon arrival
Double rooms from £459.19 ($558), including tax at 27.195 per cent.
Rates include hot breakfast.
At the hotel
Gardens, library, free DVD selection, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Minibar, free Voss water, L’Occitane toiletries. Many rooms have one-touch gas fireplaces.
Our favourite rooms
The over-sized Brookwood in the Main House has a full free-standing spa-therapy bath tub set beside the pillow-piled canopy bed. There’s also a honeymooners’ hideaway, Cedar, in the South building, which is secluded from the other rooms. Cassia and Astra in the both have river views and private balconies and fire pits - ideal for long summer nights.
There’s no pool, but cushioned wooden lounger and parasols have been set up on the grassy riverbank.
Bring a car – Milliken Creek is delightfully out of the way, so to make the most of navigating Napa you’ll need your own wheels.
This intimate Inn is best suited for cosy couples' breaks.
Nothing beats breakfast on your own balcony, overlooking the meandering river.
Cashmere and chinos.
There’s no actual restaurant, but guests can have breakfast goodies and French-pressed Dean & Deluca coffee delivered each morning, anywhere in the grounds they wish. Every evening, during ‘magic hour’, local vintners visit Milliken Creek to offer tastings of their wares, coupled with a cornucopian quantity of local cheese.
The lobby-cum-lounge also serves as the hotel’s bar area, where drinks can be provided at all times and a selection of premium ports is produced in time for a nightcap each evening.
San Francisco is the closest international airport – it's 60 miles away and around an hour in a car. American Airlines (www.americanairlines.com) flies daily from London Heathrow.
The Napa Valley Wine Train station is just down the Silverado Trail, on McKinstry Street.
The hotel is just north of Napa, on the Silverado Trail. Free parking is available.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Napa Valley is the heartland of America’s wine production and there are close to 300 wineries to sip your way through – reservations are essential. Connoisseurs should head for Swanson in the Oakville District; the exclusive Altamura winery in Wooden Valley; orKuleto Estate in St Helena. Aside from wining and dining, there’s no shortage of decadent diversions in Napa. Drift above the vineyards in a hot-air balloon, hire a bike and cycle around the region sampling the wines as you go – Getaway Adventures organises group tours – or enjoy the scenery on horseback. For big-city thrills, San Francisco is an hour away.
You’re close to a glut of Napa’s world-renowned eateries, but you’ll still need a car to ferry yourselves between them. If you want to sample the famed fare at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, you’ll need to book a month or two in advance and be sure you have a deep wallet. Also needing advance notice, La Toque in downtown Napa has an always-excellent menu of Valley victuals, coupled with a carefully considered wine selection. Cole’s Chop House in Napa serves 21-day dry-aged steaks alongside a classic American cocktail menu. On the same street, Celadon has a friendly neighbourhood atmosphere, shabby-chic looks and a Mediterranean menu with real respect for its ingredients.
Our rented red Mustang convertible seemed a garish chariot in which to arrive at the sanctuary-like Milliken Creek Inn, nestled at the foot of the Silverado Trail, a 19th-century wagon route that has since become the most picturesque wine route in the Napa Valley. In horse-and-buggy times, its main house was a stagecoach stop. Now a sybaritic hotel and spa, with two additional houses on its three acres, Milliken maintains a rustic unpretentiousness that is felt immediately.
A fire roared in the salon, soft jazz gave way to Nick Drake’s sentimental hum, and a quartet of leather club chairs and Buddha statues cued the colonial-meets-spiritual decor. Weary from travel, we made a beeline for the wine and cheese (Humboldt Fog, something resembling dark marble—an Irish porter cheese, we learned) set out in the adjacent foyer. The hotel hosts a complimentary ‘magic hour’ in which a local vintner pours choice bottles and guests discover places to visit, or just indulge in the here and now. We had missed the evening’s vintner but thankfully not the spoils.
Emboldened by a light chardonnay, we checked in quickly and dashed out to catch the last gasp of sunset on the patio overlooking the languid Napa River. Redwoods and Japanese maples cast silhouettes on the water’s surface, and the chill (this was March) staved off my buzz.
Milliken has just 12 rooms, and ours was considered luxury. No hyperbole there: it was a sprawling suite in a palette of khaki and white, appointed with British campaign furnishings – rattan chairs, leather-handled travel boxes, king-size bed draped in a gauzy canopy – and 21st-century coups such as a massive plasma TV. A fleet of votive candles, pre-lit as part of nightly turndown service, flickered from strategic perches.
The bathtub – more like a small ship possessing hydrotherapeutic powers – called for instant action. My still-newish raced to the front desk to procure the rubber duck noted in the hotel literature as a gift. Mind you, the hotel has a no-kids policy… The bath ruled, though the hot-tub pressure was titanic and we couldn’t figure out how to reduce it; the hand-held showerhead meant I didn’t bother with the room’s actual shower once during our stay. We sampled L’Occitane products, dried off in sumptuous robes and realised we would go to bed hungry if we didn’t bust a move.
No restaurant on the premises would be a bummer if Napa weren’t foodie Xanadu, a reputation owing much to cult chef Thomas Keller. His French Laundry isn’t recession-friendly and reservations can be hard to come by, so it’s a good thing its sibling restaurant, Bouchon, is superb and more affordable. Milliken seems to have thought of everything and prints cute cards with driving directions to local haunts. We navigated the 20-minute journey to the neighbouring town of Yountville and devoured a first-rate seafood platter and an entrée of sausage and prunes, abetted by excellent regional whites.
Reveling in Frette linens and down pillows, there was only one thing that could entice us to rise and shine: the siren song of bacon. The scent wafted in through the window as if a vapour from the river, which we could see clearly from bed. Why had I ordered granola and yogurt? Breakfast was delivered in a wicker basket, and I promptly commandeered half the beau’s Belgian waffles, fortified with French press coffee. (The following morning we made sure to order bacon.)
Milliken is conveniently situated not only on the Silverado Trail but also near the equally winery-studded Highway 29. We targeted a few spots recommended by the hotel and friends, and drove the Mustang past fields of wild mustard flowers. At the biodynamic Robert Sinskey vineyard, a ‘flight attendant’ won us over when he distinguished two cabernets as ‘the difference between Scarlett Johansson and Judi Dench’. He recommended we check out Elizabeth Spencer, a winery housed in a former post office, and a must if you prefer intimate to Robert Mondavi-type monoliths. In need of a sponge, we stopped into the Oakville Grocery, a popular spot to grab gourmet sandwiches for picnics at wineries or to eat at tables out back.
Post-sandwich, champagne and chocolates awaited us in the lounge, but I wasn’t ready to re-tox, and someone had spent the previous night conveniently forgetting that port is better sipped then guzzled. And, anyway, we couldn’t delay the inevitable. The staff helped pack up the Mustang, Mr Smith took the top down, I tied my hair in a scarf and off we went – gloating Zen-dilettantes setting forth on the Silverado Trail for another rough day of wining.