A Vinicultural Retreat: Reviewing Las Alcobas in Napa Valley, California
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To The Point
Overlooking some of the country’s most famous vineyards, Las Alcobas is a luxurious option for those looking to stay in Napa Valley. Pros: Refined design, incredible balconies with private firepits. Cons: Hit-or-miss food, disappointing service and high prices.
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On the heels of Marriott’s introduction of (the dreaded) Category 8 award tier, TPG wanted to review some of the most aspirational properties in the Marriott Bonvoy program. Having recently reviewed the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park and the Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina, next up was Las Alcobas — a Luxury Collection Hotel that has been on our radar for a while.
Would the hotel’s rooms, facilities, and service make the property worth 85,000 points or $800+ per night? Well, as I found out, there wasn’t a simple answer to that question.
Because I was traveling on a quiet weekend, room rates at Las Alcobas were a bit lower than normal, hovering around $725 per night. We booked right before the introduction of Category 8, so we only paid 60,000 points per night — worth roughly $480 according to TPG‘s April valuations. To sweeten the already fantastic deal, as a Marriott Ambassador Elite member, I was eligible for a space-available upgrade (up to a suite), free breakfast, and guaranteed 4pm late checkout.
With Las Alcobas having moved into Category 8, it now requires 85,000 points per night for a free night. When Marriott launches peak and off-peak pricing later in 2019, the nightly points rate will jump to 100,000 points in peak season and drop to 70,000 points during off-peak times.
We still don’t know which dates will qualify for peak and off-peak rates, but I’d venture to guess that there will be lots of peak dates, particularly over busy weekends. So if you’re thinking of booking a trip to Napa during a busy time period (holiday season, spring break, summer long weekends), it would be best to book now before rates jump by 15,000 points per night.
If you were considering paying cash for a stay at this property, you could replicate the same perks as top-tier Marriott status by booking through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which you can access through The Platinum Card® from American Express. Plus, you’d also receive an up to $100 spa credit to be used during the stay.
Las Alcobas is located in St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley. The resort is about a 40-minute drive from Sonoma County Airport (STS) and an hour and a half from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) without traffic. Since traffic across the Bay Bridge is an almost 24/7 reality, I’d recommend budgeting closer to 2-2.5 hours for the drive from SFO. Sonoma County has daily commercial flights on Alaska, American, Allegiant, and United from various cities on the West Coast, but SFO is the arrival airport of choice from points outside the West Coast.
There isn’t much public transportation in the area, so taking a ride share or renting a car are the only viable options for getting to the resort. Just make sure to leave the keys to the rental at the hotel while you’re out enjoying a wine tasting.
I arrived into STS airport from LAX and ordered a Lyft for the 40-minute drive to Las Alcobas. I chose Lyft because Uber only offers its pricey Black cars in Sonoma County, which meant that by using Lyft I saved $80 ($45 for Lyft vs. $125 for Uber).
The hotel is located on Main Street in St. Helena, a 15-minute walk from the center of town. You don’t have to go far for the wine, however, as the hotel neighbors the Beringer Winery and actually overlooks a portion of the Beringer vineyards.
Upon arriving at the hotel, I was greeted by a friendly bellman who introduced me to a front-desk associate, who was already standing outside waiting to welcome me to the property. The associate asked for my credit card, confirmed my stay details, and escorted me to the room for an in-room check-in. He welcomed me to my upgraded top floor room overlooking the Beringer vineyards and explained many of the room’s features.
After the brief orientation, he opened the mini bar and offered me a half bottle of sparkling wine as the welcome amenity. While I certainly could’ve used some cheese and crackers with the champagne (confession: I’m a lightweight …), overall, my check-in experience started to convince me that this property does deserve its place in Category 8.
The room, and especially the incredible balcony and view, further validated Las Alcobas’ premier Category 8 rating.
The hotel has 68 guest rooms, and about 10 of those are junior and one-bedroom suites. The hotel’s rooms are located in four buildings; two buildings overlooking the vineyards separated by the hotel pool, one building overlooking the Beringer estate.
The fourth building, called the Acacia House, located by the entrance of the hotel, is a renovated rustic barn that houses the hotel’s restaurant and tiny reception area.
I was given a Vineyard View 2 queen guest room in one of the hotel’s two main buildings. For a hotel with 68 rooms, there are lots of rooms categories — 12 total!
The hotel assigns room categories based on which building you are in, as well as what level your room is on. Technically, I received a three-category upgrade from a Superior Guest Room, but the only real difference was that I had a better view on a higher floor.
The room was stunning, and the minimalist decor blended naturally with the outdoorsy feel of the hotel.
The beds were super comfortable and the linens were crisp and fresh.
There were two outlets and USB ports located behind the nightstand for easy charging of all of my devices.
The minibar was located in the corner of the room and featured a complimentary French press, along with bottled water that was restocked daily.
Near the entrance hallway was the closet and bathroom. The closet was large enough to fit all my hanging clothes, plus the two oversize plush bathrobes that were already hanging there.
The bathroom was split into two separate rooms, one with a toilet and sink and the other with a shower/tub combo and sink.
Since I was traveling with a friend, this set up proved to be ideal. He could shower, while I used the sink.
The toilet was a Japanese Toto electronic toilet that welcomed me to the bathroom by automatically opening the toilet seat — and then it automatically closed when I left.
The highlight of the room was the outdoor deck with fire pit overlooking the incredible view of the vineyards. The balcony proved to be the best place to relax and enjoy some wine.
The sofa and chairs were extremely inviting and comfortable, and the fire pit was heavenly on cool evenings. Fortunately, almost 95% of the rooms feature a fire pit, so you don’t need to rely on an upgrade to get one of them.
Food and Beverage
The hotel has one on-site restaurant called the Acacia House. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. On weekdays, breakfast is served from 7-10:30am; on the weekend, breakfast hours are extended to 2pm to accommodate late risers (read: hungover lightweights).
The restaurant decor matched that of the hotel and was quite fitting for a California farm-to-table restaurant.
Breakfast is served a la carte, and my Marriott Ambassador Elite membership granted my friend and me two continental breakfasts listed at $39 per person. In practice, we were able to apply the credit to any dish we ordered.
On the first morning, I ordered the omelette ($19), which was quite tasty. I then decided to order toast ($5) and breakfast potatoes ($9).
The following morning, I ordered the cured smoked salmon ($18), followed, once again, by the toast and potatoes … my favorite hangover remedy. I also ate dinner one evening at the Acacia House. The restaurant was crowded with non-hotel guests, but I didn’t have to wait too long for a table.
To start, I ordered an endive and apples salad ($15) and finished with the whole roasted acorn squash ($24). While the salad tasted fresh and light, the squash was completely overcooked and under seasoned.
My friend enjoyed his hamachi crudo ($21) and English pea soup ($13).
Outside the restaurant is a bar area with indoor and outdoor seating. While I didn’t spend time at the bar during my stay, I observed that many guests enjoyed a drink or two (or three) in the afternoons.
Overall, the food was above average, but it didn’t feel up to the promises of a Category 8 property. My recommendation is to use your breakfast credit at the hotel restaurant and go elsewhere for your other meals. After all, this is Napa and The French Laundry is only a 15-minute drive away.
Las Alcobas definitely has enough five-star amenities to warrant its Category 8 rating. Even though the hotel was almost completely full during our stay (I overheard someone say that it was running at 95% occupancy), I never felt that it was too crowded.
While the grounds aren’t all that expansive, the hotel does have a few different areas for activities that helped spread out the crowds.
The main sitting/relaxing area was the hotel’s long rectangular pool located between two of the main buildings.
There were many yellow lounge chairs set up by the pool, which was heated to 84 degrees, but I forgot my bathing suit, so I stuck to relaxing beside the pool.
Next to the pool were a few outdoor couches and chairs set up around a large fire pit overlooking the vineyards.
Sitting out here was very relaxing, and my dermatologist father would definitely appreciate that the hotel offers free sunscreen at the pool. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any water available near the pool or outdoor couches, so come hydrated.
Back near the center of the resort was the hotel’s spa called Atrio. With 60-minute massages starting at $180 before tax and tip, I passed on a spa treatment.
I did check out the other spa facilities, which include a locker room, steam room, and relaxation area. It definitely would have been nice if the hotel also added a sauna or jacuzzi to the spa area (especially considering the low nighttime temperatures).
The relaxation room was nice, though the highlight was definitely the complimentary mixed nuts and dried fruits, hot beverages, and flavored waters.
The gym was located on the ground floor of one of the guest room buildings. It overlooks the Beringer estate and featured plenty of modern equipment that further helped me sweat out both my hangover and those potatoes I ate to combat that hangover.
In addition to the cardio and weight area, there was a yoga studio where the hotel offers complimentary yoga and TRX classes every morning.
The hotel set up some mountain bikes for rental outside of the gym, but I wasn’t sure where exactly they expected guests to ride, since the main road near the hotel was a two-lane highway.
Wi-Fi across the property was fast, free, and much needed. Cell phone reception (on Verizon and T-Mobile) was quite spotty across the property and the surrounding area, so my girlfriend back home appreciated my Wi-Fi connection almost as much as I did. Download speeds were around 50 mbps and upload speeds at 10 mbps.
Although the service was promising when I checked in, it actually proved to be the most disappointing aspect of this stay.
We asked the hotel about local transportation options other than Uber/Lyft and were excited to hear that a house car was available to hotel guests. They informed us that we’d just need to call down a few minutes before to request the car. When we called to request the car, we were told that it had been pre-booked for the entire evening. Why advertise a service that isn’t actually available for use? And, if we needed to make reservations for the car, why not tell us?
Furthermore, I needed to wash clothes that I had used earlier in my trip. I brought my laundry bag to the reception area on Saturday morning and was told that the hotel outsources their laundry service and it had been already been picked up for the day. What five-star hotel doesn’t offer expedited and readily available laundry service?
Finally, the most egregious service failure occurred the morning we checked out. I called down to the front desk and asked to reconfirm our 4pm guaranteed late checkout thanks to my Ambassador Elite membership. The front-desk manager profusely apologized, but told me that Las Alcobas is considered a resort and therefore does not guarantee 4pm late checkout to elite members. I took out my phone, browsed Marriott’s resort listings, and noticed that Las Alcobas was not listed as a resort, and I’d therefore be guaranteed a 4pm late checkout. Armed with the new information, I called back down to the front desk manager, who told me that Marriott’s website was wrong, but he offered a 4pm checkout as a one-time courtesy. Then, at 3pm, a full hour before our checkout, housekeeping knocked and opened our door(!) asking us why we haven’t yet checked out. #Bonvoyed
Does this property deserve its Category 8 placement? It’s not an easy answer.
Las Alcobas is certainly a gorgeous property in California’s Napa Valley. The hotel features a stunning design and blends perfectly into the nearby vineyards. The rooms, especially the balcony and firepits, could be featured on the cover of luxe travel magazines. However, what lay hidden beneath the glamorous façade were some serious service failures and miscommunications. If some of the service elements could be improved, then I’d definitely consider Las Alcobas worthy of inclusion among the 62 Category 8 hotels in Marriott’s Bonvoy program.
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