SF Chronicle Fires the Next Shot

Fresh on the heels of our conversation about February 2022 TOT and the WSJ article we shared, the SF Chronicle is getting in on the discussion. This time Visit Napa Valley is part of the conversation. Based on the title, I would say Visit Napa Valley got to the writer first.

A new Napa hotel charges $1,300 a night. Are prices really that high …

What hotel pricing looks like across the Napa Valley and Sonoma regions

These days, traveling to Napa sounds like a luxury. Michelin-starred restaurants have boosted the region’s culinary profile, and $500-plus wine tastings are in high demand.It hasn’t escaped the notice of Wall Street Journal wine columnist Lettie Teague, who outlined some of the rising prices in the region in her latest column, headlined “Who Can Afford Napa Now? Not This Wine Columnist.”The article notes that Stanly Ranch, a hotel opening this week just south of Napa, starts at $1,259 per night during the week. If you’re staying on a weekend, that number climbs as much as $1,899 per night.It’s worth noting the Stanly is by no means the most expensive stay in Napa. Some resorts hidden among the region’s vineyards charge even more for their standard rooms. And if you’re looking for a fully tricked-out penthouse-style hotel room — or, as at Carneros Resort & Spa, a cottage of your own — one night can run upward of $4,000 (more than the per capita monthly income in 2020 in Napa, according to the U.S. Census Bureau).These numbers are eye-popping, but the WSJ article has left many Wine Country locals feeling defensive, according to Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley and wine reporter Jess Lander. They write that there is a web of factors much more complicated than what the Journal story acknowledges behind the sky-high prices in Napa.

The Chronicle looked at several hotels in Napa County to see what prices across the full spectrum really look like. We looked at the price of a one-night stay during the week in June, before taxes and occupancy fees.

As domestic travelers packed their bags for Wine Country during the pandemic, the region saw high demand for its 5,700 rooms, according to Visit Napa Valley, a tourism group.

“What it says to me is that visitors are willing to pay a premium to travel anywhere,” said Linsey Gallagher, president of Visit Napa Valley.

Wine Country appeals to travelers who are still hesitant to vacation overseas during this part of the pandemic, Gallagher said. Because of its plentiful outdoor experiences such as wine-tasting, horseback riding and hiking, tourists feel safe while still having fun.

For the budget-conscious traveler

Not all lodgings are prohibitively expensive. While hotel prices have steadily ticked up over the last decade (the average daily room rate went from $239 in 2012 to $404 in 2021, according to Smith Travel Research), Wine Country still offers some relatively affordable options.Staying in downtown Napa is cheaper than staying at resorts in the rest of Wine Country. Although it may require a longer drive to vineyards scattered throughout the county, it’s just a fraction of the cost of some luxury hotels in the area.

Cambria Hotel: One weekday night at this downtown Napa stay, which opened in 2021, starts at $235. But its services are limited compared to other lodging in Wine Country. Its king bed deluxe room, the cheapest available, includes a sitting area, bathtub and coffee maker.

Andaz Napa-Hyatt: Deeper into downtown Napa is this Hyatt hotel, where rates start at $372 per night for a weekday stay. A 310-square-feet king bed room, advertised as “rustic-chic” on the Hyatt website, includes a waterfall shower and floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Luxury for some people can be $200 a night,” Gallagher said. “And yet there are those many thousands of dollars options getting booked.”The Chronicle’s wine writing team knows the local scene well, and has listed its favorite affordable Napa wineries, hotels and restaurants.

Middle of the road

In the middle range of hotels, visitors get a few more amenities.

The Meritage Hotel and Spa: One of the largest hotels in Napa advertises $499 per night for a weekday stay in its standard room. Pets are allowed at the resort, which gives dog owners “a dog bowl to take home and a pet amenity bag.”

Hotel Yountville: Outside the city, visitors can rent bigger rooms with bells-and-whistles bathrooms. For $975 per night during a weekday stay, a deluxe king room — the smallest available at up to 525 square feet — comes with a stone fireplace, “spa-tub and shower,” and patio or high ceilings, depending on where the room is in the building.

At the top of the market

Luxury stays, which make up 15% of the hotel rooms available in Napa, according to Visit Napa Valley, offer much more.

The $1,259 per night at Stanly Ranch is far from the most expensive in the area. Options that outprice it include:

Bardessono Hotel and Spa: A standard king spa suite (the cheapest available at this Yountville resort) costs $1,435 per night. At 550 square feet, visitors get a private balcony or terrace, deep bathtub and shower, plus a “spacious sitting area.”

Four Seasons Napa Valley: The Calistoga location of the luxury hotel brand, which opened in October 2021, runs $1,600 per night during the week for its standard room. There’s an indoor fireplace, plus a private balcony or terrace overlooking nearby vineyards.

Carneros Resort and Spa: Tourists can stay in a standalone garden cottage overlooking a private patio. A spokesperson for Carneros Resort and Spa said midweek pricing starts at $900, but a recent search of its booking system for a weeknight in June started at $1,700. It comes with an indoor fireplace, private backyard and patio with fire pit, outdoor shower and heated bathroom floor. And if you really want to live in luxury, the “courtyard home” stay includes gated entry, a rooftop sundeck and cabana, two master suites, a third bedroom, a full kitchen with Viking appliances, 1,400-square-foot courtyard and a carport. It’ll run you $4,499 per night.

Even at such stratospheric price points, there’s no shortage of people willing to pay, local industry experts say.

“We’re seeing really strong demand for those luxury properties as well, seeing bookings well into the summer and fall,” Gallagher said. “There’s a demand for the Napa Valley level of service.”Gwendolyn Wu (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: gwendolyn.wu@sfchronicle.com

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