Skylark Travels

Just Back From Napa Valley

By: Peter J. Frank

Skylark’s Editorial Director Peter J. Frank recently returned from a long weekend at the new Las Alcobas Hotel in Napa Valley. The property, an offshoot of a hotel in Mexico, is a member of the Luxury Collection. Here is his report:


The latest—and possibly greatest—hotel in Napa Valley isn’t the brainchild of a local vintner, a project of some Silicon Valley investors or a contender from a major luxury brand. It’s the outpost of a small boutique hotel in Mexico City, of all places. The original Las Alcobas is one of my favorite hotels—it combines a striking contemporary design with a particularly warm, familial sense of hospitality. Would this formula work as well in California wine country as it does in an urban environment? Let’s put it this way: I may have found my new favorite hotel.


On the northern end of St. Helena, right on Route 29, Napa’s main drag, Las Alcobas Napa Valley occupies a restored 1905 Georgian-style house as well as three newly constructed buildings that look out over the Beringer estate and vineyards. The interior designers—Yabu Pushelberg, who also did the Mexican property—laid out the 68 rooms very spaciously, emphasizing natural materials (wide-plank oak floors) and a residential vibe (a long glass table, a miniature gated front porch)


  • The stone and marble bathroom, with its walk-in shower and soaking tub. A separate loo contained a (Japanese!) toilet and its own sink.
  • The large balcony with its fire pit and rocking chairs with a view of the vineyards—it's surprising how few hotels in Napa have views like this.
  • The Atrio Spa, with its emphasis on ancient treatments. I found the Samunprai, a Thai technique that incorporates fragrant herbs, supremely relaxing.


Chef Chris Cosentino, best known for his nose-to-tail cooking at Cockscomb in San Francisco (and for winning Top Chef Masters) takes a more refined approach in the elegant, gray-toned Acacia House dining room. A crudité bowl of perfectly selected baby vegetables stays crisp on a bed of ice; a flattened and delicately breaded Ibérico pork schnitzel comes with a tangle of watercress and a generous dollop of caviar. For dessert, a trio of squared-off eclairs are filled with seasonal ingredients, perhaps strawberry with lemon verbena or bourbon and peach.


Wine tasting, of course. Beringer, storied for its cabernets, is right next door, and Schramsberg, where the bubbly is aged in caves deep underground, is 10 minutes away. The wine-blending experience at Conn Creek Winery—where you use medicine droppers and beakers to create your own personalized California cab, and then bottle it yourself—is a hoot.


Sitting on the porch of the original building and sipping a margarita topped with salty foam—after tasting wine all day, a different libation is in order!