Author: Heather Ranes
Date of Trip: June 2007
My husband planned a honeymoon trip to remember! With the help of TripAdvisor.com, our Bed and Breakfast host Carlos, and a little imagination, we were able to enjoy every minute of our special trip to Napa Valley in June 2007.
Our honeymoon took place 5 weeks after our wedding; but my husband took it upon himself to book our reservations at the Ambrose Bierce House Bed and Breakfast in St. Helena California several months before. It gave me plenty of time to plot our adventures, research wineries, and consider the myriad of activities Napa Valley has to offer. Thankfully, Carlos (the manager of the property at our Bed and Breakfast) made himself available via email to answer any and all of my naïve questions with patience and thoroughness.
St. Helena, the city in which the B&B is located, was everything we’d imagined. It looks more like a town than a city! Quaint and quiet residential streets lined with trees, antiquated looking shops bordered Main Street, and beautiful sunny weather comprised our first impressions. We arrived at the Ambrose Bierce house a little before our appointed arrival time, but we were greeted warmly and let into our room with no delay.
The room was decorated in a Victorian fashion; my husband found it to be a little “feminine”, but tastefully done. The double sized bed was comfortable and there was a closet of good size in which to stow our luggage. This was a nice amenity as the room itself was small. Fortunately there were 2 windows in the room which let in a lot of fresh air and light, making the room appear slightly larger than it was. Another element of the room included a small side table on which a full decanter of port was made available to us every night at no additional charge. The bathroom had been recently renovated and even sported a Jacuzzi tub — which I took full advantage of several times during our stay. As a frivolous side note, I have to mention that the bathroom towels were marvelously fluffy!
The upper floor of the house, where we stayed, had a total of 3 bedrooms. Each room is adjacent to a common sitting room decorated with antique furniture, a well-stocked bookcase, and travel guides to all of the local sights and eateries. A major bonus of this B&B is that the owner makes and bottles his own wine which he made available to his houseguests; a beautifully appointed sideboard featured a daily complementary bottle of wine. A plate of cheese and crackers was set out in the evenings for us to enjoy along with the notable wine, and in addition there was a coffee pot for guests to use at their leisure — a definite plus on the mornings we woke early to take advantage of the large porch swing before breakfast.
The breakfast on each of the 4 days we were guests was far superior to anything we could have ordered in a restaurant. Eggs Benedict, homemade croissants (worth every calorie!), apple sausage, mimosas…the list goes on and on. Over breakfast, Carlos would invite conversation and make suggestions as to which wineries we should consider visiting, which shops to wander through, and what restaurants he personally recommended for dinner. Overall, his suggestions were right on the money. He even turned us on to some lovely picnic grounds for the afternoon we wanted nothing more than to buy a bottle of wine, eat some local cheese, and stretch out in the sunshine. His knowledge of the area was invaluable.
Apart from the wineries, Napa Valley boasts perfect weather conditions for growing the olives necessary for olive oil. Within 5 miles of the house were three olive oil companies. While taste testing olive oil was a new experience for us both, it was wholly enjoyable! One store even afforded us the opportunity to personally bottle and cork our favorite flavor! We came home with as many bottles of olive oil as we did wine, in a variety of flavors….basil, garlic, and chili to name a few. The niche stores sold not only the locally made oils, but gourmet mustards, meat rubs, and sauces as well. It was a connoisseur’s delight!
Other attractions worth mentioning are Woodhouse Chocolate and the Oakville Grocery. Woodhouse Chocolate creates incredible truffles (try the coconut!) and other sweet delights, and the tiny Oakville Grocery housed more gourmet meats, cheeses, mustards, breads, and wine than we could imagine!
One morning we visited a highly touted spa in Calistoga famous for “refreshing” and “detoxifying” mud baths sprung from local hot springs. We were brought to a private couple’s room and invited to sit in a tub of incredibly thick, hot mud. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, though not for the reasons one might think. My new husband and I couldn’t stop laughing at the sight of one another covered head to toe in dark, sticky, stinky mud; kind of like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” While we are not likely to forget our hysterical fits, we are equally unlikely to pay a repeat visit. Our recommendation? Stick to the massage treatments!
Hands down, our favorite winery was Schaumburg’s. While a little pricey at $25 per person, our knowledgeable and witty guide led us through the dark cool caves where they store their prize winning sparking wines while detailing the process of wine making. The tour ends in a dark cave lit with candles where we tasted taste each of their products.
The Ambrose Bierce house is in an ideal location….just a little more to the north end of the Napa Valley. We were within walking distance of all the shops and restaurants in St. Helena, and within reasonable driving distance of literally dozens of wineries.
Out of 5 stars, I give Ambrose Bierce 4 overall. There were a couple of minor details that we might have changed given a chance (the general size of our accommodations, for instance) but we had a wonderful honeymoon trip with very few complaints. We fully intend to go back to the region at some point in our lives together, and we would definitely consider staying at Ambrose Bierce again.