General manager David Jessup is up to his ears in new furniture and redesign activity, but he is kind enough to give me an hour of time for a walkabout of the Kenwood Inn & Spa near Sonoma County’s charming Kenwood.
The stroll unveils the rich ambiance of Italy’s Tuscan countryside, but one thought keeps reoccurring to me: This meticulously maintained property must require a lot of attention.
Of course, this is not my problem; I have only to suck in all the gorgeousness of the carefully pruned hedges; the newly sprouting grape vines; the splendid rose bushes; the flowering fruit trees (apple, pear, fig and citrus); the vine-covered trellises; the multiple fountains, patios and pools; and the millhouse with a waterwheel that generates that beautifully serene sound of churning, trickling water.
“We put a lot of effort into the exterior, and now we’re putting some TLC into the interior,” Jessup explains as he takes a break from directing what looks like a dozen furniture movers, interior designers and assistants.
The inn “was falling down in 2017,” when the Four Sisters Collection bought it, Jessup says. The new owners revitalized the Mediterranean buildings and the 2.5 acres of gardens and vineyard.
Learning to navigate the verdant hotel grounds, with its 30 rooms, spa, pool and maze of small gardens make for delightful discovery; there is a surprise around every corner. It also means that we are within easy striking distance of the town of Kenwood and numerous attractions and activities:
- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park – Located in the Mayacamas Mountains (which separates Sonoma and Napa valleys), the park has more than 25 miles of trails that cover three ecological regions. We chose the Vista Trail Loop, which provides a lesson in the devastation of fire (the 2017 Nuns Fire and 2020 Glass Fire together burned 98% of the park’s 4,900 acres) and the rebirth of the land. Spectacular views are the reward for the uphill trek. Begin hiking near the visitor center, and near the end of the trail you’ll find the Robert Ferguson Observatory, which hosts Star Parties for viewing the heavens through its three large telescopes and numerous smaller ones.
- A walk through the Sonoma Botanical Garden is an escape from all that currently plagues us. Do take a map, as paths twist and turn through the 25 acres that support 1,300 classes of East Asian plants and trees, some rare and/or endangered. A work in progress: Three Springs Ranch in the southern part of the garden which will feature California natives.
- It will be difficult to get out of Swede’s Feeds without buying something – yard art, plants, pottery or a gift, like a book that turns into a beehive. Founded in 1975 as a livestock feed store by Edgar “Swede” Hanson, the store has evolved into a wonderland for gardeners and a place where shoppers can find a plethora of colorful craziness and creative merchandise. Swede’s still sells feed for smaller animals, and some of them reside at the store. The critters include chickens, a cat, a dog, two pygmy goats and a pond full of fish.
- Enter the tasting room at Kunde Family Winery, a century-plus old vineyard, and you’ll do a double-take. Hanging over the tasting bar is a massive metal sculpture of “an ancient zinfandel vine created by a Petaluma artist,” tasting room rep Sally Buonpane explains. It’s a tribute to the “130-year-old vines (in our vineyard) that still bear fruit.” The five-generation winery also features beautifully landscaped grounds with water features and plenty of space to picnic.