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Gaige House

Forget About the Wine-Tasting

Evidently, spring is in the air, romance is upon us, and throwbacks to the tried and true dinner-n-a-movie combination just won’t make the cut anymore. That’s no secret to jet-setting young urbanites and seasoned weekend lovebirds who flock to Gaige House, a cozy Sonoma County hamlet that can’t help but inspire its inhabitants to turn their cell phones off and their taste for the finer things in life on.

Nestled into a cozy spot in Sonoma’s idyllic Glen Ellen, Gaige House is a stately Queen Ann Italianate inn that dates back to the 1890s, when it was a local butcher’s house. But for the past 12 years, Gaige has held the unspoken title of most stylish and hospitable B&B in the region. It’s a long, windy drive down a wine-grape-studded lovers’ lane, and it only gets better as you approach the place. With 23 main rooms (half of them junior suites, the other half traditional inn rooms) and eight luxurious “Zen” suites in a building separate from the main house, visitors are ensured a different experience with each visit, according to Gaige House’s General Manager, Gohkan Aykan.

Overall, the ambience is tasteful and modern, nailing down the trappings of the cozy Victorian B&B while also making sure it’s several notches above chintzy. Unlike most B&Bs, where visitors can be made to feel like veritable bulls in a china closet, you can actually hang out in Gaige House without the fear of tracking mud. The three-story main building is home to a wonderfully minimalist visitor’s lounge, replete with an extensive DVD library and accoutrements for Gaige’s daily afternoon wine tasting while the den at the back of the building marries a clean, conference-room style with earth tones and rustic Asian ornamentation. The dining room is also stocked with gourmet teas and coffee, juice, water, soda, fruit, and homemade cookies accessible to visitors 24/7.

“The previous owners [who ran Gaige until August 2006] thought of Gaige as more of an inn, but the current ones see it as a luxury hotel. For instance, you get the charm of a B&B, but if you happen to need something at 11pm, we can provide you with it,” explains Aykan. Some of the additions to the amenities include 24-hour room service, modern coffeemakers, and mini-bars stocked with wine, water, and local products in each room. “It’s part of bringing the secrets of Sonoma and Napa into the inn, and also being part of this wonderful community,” explains Aykan, who says that Gaige is also looking into creating custom-made gift baskets complete with local knick-knacks like chocolate, olive oil products, and herbal sachets.

Perhaps the most luxurious addition to Gaige House (as well as the reason that visitors generally have to bide their time on a wait list before booking a stay) is the inn’s eight Zen suites. Completed in 2005, these sprawling cottages reflect an obvious Japanese influence, from the interior décor to the near-meditative grounds and landscaping. Visitors who think they’re in for a sybaritic weekend of wine-tasting and other outdoor activities are likely to change their minds about venturing out once they set foot in one of the Zen suites. Some of the indulgences include plush king-size beds with several hundred thread count linens, plasma screen TVs, earthy fixtures (from pressed-leaf paintings to rock crystal candleholders to stone Buddha sculptures), gorgeous rock gardens, outdoor patios overlooking foliage galore, plenty of bamboo furnishings, and stately 2,500-pound granite bath tubs, which keep hot water pleasantly hot for long periods of time. When you take a soak in the tub with your honey, dig into one of Gaige’s complimentary wine and cheese platters, and zone out with some jazz and candlelight, getting out and about will hardly seem necessary.

The surroundings are equally gorgeous. Beautifully bedecked lawns, old-fashioned striped awnings, and towering magnolias all around the main house provide the perfect backdrop for a moonlight walk. A Jacuzzi, pool, and enormous wooden decks for sunbathing also provide space for some sun-dappled R&R. And if you’re not too busy, you’ll want to pay a visit to Gaige’s cozy penthouse spa suite, on the third floor of the main house.

A charming garret-like room with two deluxe massage tables makes for a romantic retreat for careworn couples. A rooftop deck also plays host to al fresco treatments when the weather permits. The talented local practitioners have assembled a sumptuous treatment menu of massage (ranging from hot stone to Reflexology), as well as organic facials and body scrubs. “The spa is part of our mission to prolong the experience of relaxation as much as possible,” says Aykan. “While other spas spit you back out into the world, you can take that feeling of bliss out with you, back to your room or the pool or the gardens.”

If you think Gaige’s delightful services end here, think again. After all, what kind of B&B would it be without the sumptuous breakfasts? Unsurprisingly, Gaige is known far and wide for its gourmet three-course breakfasts; in fact, it’s the main reason that has visitors making repeat trips. On my visit, I enjoy a delectable array -- everything ranging from organic greens with a crab and corn éclair, to smoked salmon, to hearty homemade scones and fresh-squeezed juices.

By the time my weekend is over, I’ve been wined, dined, and pleasingly sated, courtesy of Gaige House. And while romance is fine and dandy, I’m beginning to think my dalliance with Gaige House is the start of a brand new love affair.