This Napa Resort Feels Like a Luxury Summer Camp — Wine Tastings and Dreamy Cottages Included

Plus, you can buy out an entire neighborhood of cottages with outdoor showers and in-room fireplaces.

As a kid, the mere prospect of camp was thrilling — a few magical, responsibility-free months spent relishing s'mores around a crackling fire, playing afternoon lawn games, and cozying up during outdoor movie nights. In that way Carneros Resort and Spa, a NorCal property not far from downtown Napa, is just like camp. Only, it's better. Taking the summer tradition's favorite fixtures, the luxury hotel adds in grown-up touches — in-room wine dispensers and fireplaces, farm-to-table dining, and an adults-only infinity pool for an upscale, home-away-from-home experience. Best of all? You can have it all year round.

It was late October, but we arrived at Carneros — just over an hour's drive from San Francisco Airport — with the same giddy enthusiasm of camp-bound kids on the last day of school. The Napa I pictured had hillside wineries, full-bodied reds, and afternoon sunlight dancing across vast expanses of vines, as if the sky simply flipped a switch.

Chairs overlooking the vineyard at Carneros Resort and Spa
Courtesy of Alisha Prakash

Much like I envisioned, the 28-acre property, surrounded by rolling vineyards with charming cottages strewn about, delivered a proper, patented wine country welcome: "Red or white?" the friendly concierge asked as we checked in at the lobby. "They're from this region, Los Carneros."

This was enough to win me over. It's true, great wine tastes delicious whether you pop open a bottle at home or are served a special pour from a renowned sommelier, but there was something about enjoying a glass straight from the source that made every sip extra special. And from the get-go, it was clear this is a place that values the simple pleasures of eating and drinking — and doing it well.

Farm, the fine-dining, farm-to-table restaurant that takes advantage of the property's own natural gifts — a culinary garden and chicken coop mere minutes away — to source its ingredients isn't just a place to indulge in black truffle potato gnocchi or perfectly seared scallops with creamed red rice, but to really linger for hours, savoring each course and accompanying glass of wine. Don't expect to leave hungry. The more casual Boon Fly Café, a roadside diner with a striking red façade, is open all day long, and the warm, sugar-dusted donuts and piled-high chilaquiles are as good as the line out the door suggests. Meanwhile, those who head to the Hilltop Dining Room for breakfast or lunch will be privy to the picturesque countryside as they gobble up all that good food.

The exterior of a cottage at Carneros Resort & Spa
Trinette + Chris/Courtesy of Carneros Resort & Spa

Even the 100 freestanding, farmhouse-inspired cottages recall the merits of wine country with an in-room wine dispenser so you can get a taste of Napa whenever you please. Simple yet stylish, rustic yet elegant, the cottages — arranged in idyllic mini neighborhoods all named after the area's flora, like poppy and persimmon — invite guests to make themselves at home with fireplaces, indoor/outdoor showers, heated bathroom floors, and a flood of natural light. French doors lead outside to a private, sun-washed patio with a dreamy garden, lounge chairs, an electric fire pit, and a soaking tub, while rocking chairs and complimentary bikes summon out front on the porch. Strolling the hotel grounds — speckled with wildflowers and lemon, fig, apple, and pomegranate trees, feels more like walking around a well-groomed neighborhood.

Interior of a cottage at Carneros Resort & Spa
Bryan Gray/Courtesy of Carneros Resort & Spa

For an even more residential feel, Carneros offers neighborhood buyouts for up to 20 guests. Perfect for privacy and social distancing with your own travel bubble, the exclusive experience includes nightly live music, front-yard picnics curated by the resort's chef, backyard movie screenings, fireside s'mores, game nights, stargazing, and more. Not that you need a large group to enjoy those amenities — it's truly hard to have a bad day here.

The pool at Carneros Resort and Spa
Courtesy of Alisha Prakash

There's the adults-only infinity pool with an unobstructed view of the landscape — the kind of sight that lifts your mood, drops your shoulders, and softens your clenched jaw all at first glance. We spent most of our time here, settling into one of the comfy daybeds, loungers, or Adirondack chairs — all strategically pointing toward the sweeping scenery — glass of vino in hand. For visitors traveling with kids, there's a family-friendly pool, too, and it's framed with palm trees and cushioned chairs for relaxing as little ones splash around. By the afternoon, friendly games of bocce and cornhole commence.

Carneros prioritized being outdoors well before the pandemic made it de rigueur, though inside, you'll find welcome amenities, too. Much like the other on-property venues, the luxurious spa takes its cue from its surroundings, with treatments (massages, body scrubs, facials) that use farm-inspired elements like sage, lavender, lemongrass, mint, poppy, and sweet orange.

A cottage bathroom at Carneros Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Carneros Resort & Spa

And should you decide to go off property for a tasting or a few — this is wine country, after all — the property's prime address, a short drive from both Sonoma and Napa, puts you near several superb wineries, shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

Whether we spent the day soaking in the infinity pool-adjacent hot tub or sampling vino around town, coming back to our cottage each time felt like a real treat. We'd scurry inside, flip on the fireplace to cozy up from the cool evening breeze, then eventually make our way to our private patio, sitting among the pomegranate trees. If the mood struck, we'd turn on a movie on the outdoor projector and watch alongside a warming fire.

A firepit at a cottage at Carneros Resort & Spa
Stacy Bass/Courtesy of Carneros Resort & Spa

On our last night, with my hands sticky from s'mores, I couldn't help but recall the happy, halcyon days of summer camp — albeit, my belly brimming with good food and wine this time, too. We may have swapped out-of-tune renditions of "Kumbaya" for conversations about our preferred varietals of the day, exchanged lake swims for divine hot tub soaks overlooking vineyards, and traded bunks for plush beds and crisp white linens, but I was overcome with a similar childlike euphoria. Our visit was not a summer-long affair — instead only a brief, gone-too-quickly weekend — but Carneros managed to make our stay just as memorable.

I poked another chocolate marshmallow (yes, even the marshmallows are classy here) through the top of my already-singed s'mores stick and dangled it near the fire. Rotating it with precision as I had learned to do in my childhood years, careful not to let it ignite yet keeping it close enough to achieve that perfect golden-brown char, I glanced up at the sign on our patio: "Life is better on the farm." Smiling, I thought, indeed, it is.

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