Little Black Book

Soaking Up Red, White, and Design in California Wine Country

by Anna Petrow
The living is easy at MacArthur Place. All photos by Anna Petrow.

Just before the pandemic forced us to stay home, Fathom contributing editor Anna Petrow spent time photographing her favorite design-driven spots in Napa and Sonoma. Now that we're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, we're dreaming about warm days and cool nights in Californian wine country. Bookmark this hit list for a good-looking vacation.

WINE COUNTRY, California – When you're ready to hit the road again, two things will be necessary for a successful wine country trip: a route and reservations. Most wineries won’t accommodate walk-ins, so having a plan ahead of time makes for a more relaxing visit. I often try to book my stays and winery visits in a north-bound fashion up the valley. (No complaints here about doubling back on the most beautiful roads in the country.) Do yourself a favor and coordinate a sober driver, a car service, or an Uber situation when stacking vineyard visits.

The lobby and bicycle stand at MacArthur Place.
The pool at The Duchamp.

Stay + Sleep

MacArthur Place is an instant vacation. Arriving on the grounds is like going to a modernist summer camp for adults. There's a sunny pool, cute bicycles, communal fire pits, and daily happy hour — giving the property a community feel. The cottage compound has sleek guest cottages — prepare to be wowed with excellent amenities like outdoor showers, Dyson hair dryers, and a next-level minibar. Please, check in and enjoy.

With just six freestanding casitas surrounding a sun-drenched pool and hot tub, The Duchamp in Healdsburg is a minimalist’s dream. Olive trees line the walk into the private compound, where fluffy beds and roaring fireplaces await inside each hut.

Cocktails at Layla.
Iconic design and obligatory door photo at Ashes & Diamonds Winery in Napa.

Eat + Drink

I have spent plenty of time and money snagging some of Napa Valley’s most coveted reservations, but I have to say that MacArthur’s on-site restaurant, Layla, served one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the region. Dishes are fresh and inventive (ahi tuna and grapefruit tartare; fermented cucumber tzatziki with crudité). The cocktails are creative and the wine list is great.

Napa's Ashes & Diamonds Winery is an area staple with its now-iconic mid-century building with portholes and zig-zag roof. The food and wines are lovely and the fresh baked bread is worth writing home about. Don’t forget to snap a photo in front of the iconic yellow door.

The flight at Orin Swift.
Stopping for fuel at Tank Garage Winery in Calistoga.
Inside MacRostie.

Orin Swift's alleyway-turned tasting room is one of Napa Valley’s best hidden gems. Fans of Orin Swift wine might be familiar with the beautiful photography hanging at the entrance, which graces the bottle of the 2017 Papillon Bordeaux blend. Besides serving top-notch wines, the downtown St. Helena tasting room has a sleek look, too.

Tank Garage Winery set up shop in an old former gas station in the valley, and still has the old service station signage and sliding garage doors to let the sunshine in. The bottle design is fresh and contemporary — they make for fun gifts and conversation starters.

One of my favorite examples of wine country architecture done right, MacRostie blends in seamlessly and beautifully with its surroundings. From the soaring ceilings to the sweeping sunlight, it feels like a natural extension of the Healdsburg winery grounds; an easy place to sip and stay all day.

Before the tasting at MacRostie.

Take the Scenic Route

It’s always worth taking the long road home. Cut over to the coast and take Highway 1 back to the city for some of the most breathtaking vistas in the state. Pit stop in Bodega Bay for oysters or pop by the beautiful Pelican Inn for memorable bites with a view. (Or both!)

Be a Good Traveler

The government of California is asking people to enjoy its attractions in “a thoughtful, safe, and respectful manner." Read up on the latest news, travel carefully, and consider making a contribution to one of the many organizations and services doing good work to help people in the community. Read on for inspiration.

Keep Planning Your California Road Trip

How to Enjoy Safe Solace of Sonoma County — Wherever You Are
Sip Sustainably: A Female Winemakers Guide to Sonoma County
Fathom's guide to Napa + Sonoma