As a writer for The Bespoke Black Book, luxury is where it’s at. But, as a reader of BBB, you probably already know that we don’t simply look for riches, it is all about the experience. Fun, sexy, different explorations that must be found are what we want to share with you.
While seeking out where to stay during my very first Napa trip, I assumed that, as usual, I would stay at a five star luxury hotel and tell you about it. But, when I spoke with Ray Hanson Jr. owner of Destiny Wine Tours who would be taking me around the valley, he shifted my thinking 180 degrees with this question and comment: “Have you thought about staying at a bed and breakfast? Napa has some amazing places, you should stay at one of ‘em!”
Hmmm…what a novel idea! Why don’t I stay at a B&B? I’ve never done that before & it will fit right in with my Napa theme of “first-times…” I am sold!
After some careful online perusing, I come across The Inn on First. The photos look incredible and I do some further research. Some descriptions start to tantalize me… the reviews are glowing, the rooms shown are spacious, there’s complimentary bubbly, an emphasis on recycling, it is gay and straight friendly plus the chef and owner Jim Gunther refers to his food as “whimsical”, creates breakfast to order, and refuses to serve the same menu twice. Ever. This smacks of a unique experience to moi.
I email and Jim’s other half, Jamie Cherry responds with enthusiasm and an immediate phone call. We discuss details of my trip and he asks me if I have any special food requests or allergies, as Jim likes to cater to all his guests and their individual preferences. I am getting really excited. Who wants a hotel when I am receiving this kind of bespoke, personal attention?
As I arrive to The Inn on First, I notice the amazing beauty of the outside. It’s a huge house, with multicultural flags cheerfully waving, massive birds of paradise beckoning and daffodils bobbing merrily to greet me. I open the door and the entry that awaits me is simply stunning. Jim comes out to greet me and is so enthusiastic and genuine that I fall into deep “like” immediately. We step in to the living room together and admire the baby grand piano that Jamie recently installed in the foyer.
In front of the street view bay window, is a gorgeous table with a chessboard ready to play, and a fireplace gently murmurs, with the daily newspaper on the settee at the ready for a relaxing browse. I am impressed with the visually amazing decoration: fun yet classic, serious pieces mixed with vibrant, lively ones. My eyes continue to sweep the room, and are rewarded by spendidly bright pieces of glassware decorating the shelves. A crystal decanter of port rests on a side table with glasses displayed and, despite the early hour, daring me to a taste.
Jim guides me through a beautiful flowering courtyard, with pathways, picnic areas, a waterfall and multiple perfect photo scenarios toward my destiny. At the entry to the stairway leading to my suite is a magnificent statue of a women goddess and I pause to admire.
The sign on my door reads “Queen of the Meadow”… I am intrigued. He sweeps open the door and I am welcomed inside. Breathtaking. I see a wide open, bright room with rich, dark, classic, antique wood furniture, and a gigantic, white, clean bed. A switch is flipped and the fireplace lights up. I strut through, and gaze at an enormous shower and whirlpool tub, each of which could fit a dozen, and dual pedestal sinks.
Jim points out that his handmade truffles and a split of Mumm’s Napa chilling are awaiting my attention, and there is an ipod set up with personalized relaxing music. He points out stainless steel canteens for water, backpacks to use and refillable sundries, rather than plastic disposable containers. I note the tasteful recycling encouragement all over the room and it is clear that preserving the environment and not being wasteful is important to them, as it is to me.
He reminds me about breakfast in the morning and exits, leaving me to snatch the Mumm’s out of the fridge and pop that cork post haste! I adjourn to the private, tiny balcony overlooking the palm trees, which is perfect to enjoy my chocolates treats & sparkling wine delight!
I spend a full day touring Napa and afterwards I return to the majestic suite, ready for a good night’s sleep. I spend some time in my lounge area, with the fire blazing, and a glass of pinot at my side. I browse the detailed binder of information that Jim and Jamie have prepared for their guests. It lists any and all things one may need to enjoy their Napa vacation, including restaurant reviews and recommendations. I am amused and pleased to note that they don’t pull punches. If a restaurant has led to unhappy experiences, and isn’t worth a visit, they don’t pretend, they tell it like it is.
My eyes are heavy and I have a big day of wine tasting in the morning. I unpeel the ivory cover and am thrilled to slip into the crisp sheets. The gigantic bed is so comfortable, I fall into a deep sleep immediately, filled with happy dreams.
I rise early to admire the gorgeous view from my balcony and I sit out in the crisp morning air, enjoying the stillness of Napa. After a hot shower, I decide I need a good breakfast before I spend the day wine touring and tasting with Destiny Wine Tour. I meander through the courtyard and realize how truly beautiful it is. I snap many photos and tweet several of them to my audience to see my surroundings.
I enter the dining room and am greeted by a spectacular table fully set for twelve, with orange linens fanned out, silverware shining and glasses sparkling. The smell of really good coffee hits my nose (they have it specially made and ground, top secret), and carafes of fresh squeezed orange juice are placed every other setting. I immediately browse the side table set with granola, fresh fruit salad, yogurt and warm, wait, what’s this? Homemade mini doughnuts…*squeal!* I place one on my plate, and, looking furtively around to be sure nobody is looking, shove one in my mouth. Oh. My. Warm, sweet, heaven.
I sit my second (or third) doughnut safely at the table to reserve my seat and decide to take my coffee into the front room and enjoy reading the local newspaper facing one of the main streets, while Napa wakes up and starts to bustle outside the window.
I begin to hear voices with laughter, and bring my empty mug into the dining to greet the new arrivals, and fill up another fresh steaming cup. I sit down as Jamie greets me with a smile and begins to flit around, looking after guests in an easy manner, chatting and taking care of all their needs. I can hear sounds of breakfast beginning in earnest from Jim’s kitchen. Each breakfast is prepared to order as the guest arrives , and is carefully made according to the dietary instructions they have sussed out when taking my reservation. I have asked for a healthier option of no meat & egg whites in mine. (The Californian in me!)
More guests arrive as Jim *gasp of happiness* brings out round two of fresh soft homemade donuts, heading right toward me to offer them first (does he know I was snarfing the last tray?). The latest incoming guests have brought treats for Oscar, Hugo and Calvin, the Inn’s schnauzer mascots!
I browse the great materials I found at the front area, places to go, things to do, eat, see. The conversation around me is light and easy, guests introducing themselves to one another from Winnipeg, Rodchester, Washington, Newport Beach and Irvine. Jamie chats, entertains, advises dinners places to try based on what everyone likes, and where to go wine tasting. He also whisks away empty plates, fetches more yogurt and fresh coffee, and keeps an ear for Jim to ring the bell announcing that a special a la carte breakfast treat is completed for a lucky visitor.
Suddenly, a tantalizing plate full of magnificent smelling food is placed in front of me. Jim comes out and I demand to know the details: Arepas, which is a corn cake w/ roasted tomatoes, anejo chili sauce, crema, mixed greens w/ lemon vinaigrette. I taste it and am transported to a magical place. It is simply epic.
I advise Jim of my now crush on him after eating this stunning meal, he laughs and pretends he doesn’t hear glowing compliments about his food at least ten times a day. I tell him that I saw his book “Sweet Beginnings” (with gluten free recipe options) on the side table and wish to purchase a copy. A few moments later, I am presented with a signed copy! We chat a bit more and I share with him that being at The Inn on First for my very first ever B&B experience has been nothing short of remarkable. He is thrilled. What a wonderful experience staying at a Bed and Breakfast can be, when properly done. How high can one recommend a place? Yeah, they topped that! Go there and you will thank me. You’re welcome in advance. Next time I go to Napa, I’ll be staying at The Inn on First and bringin’ the schnauzers’ treats! *CLINK!*
The Inn on First
1938 1st Street
Napa, CA 94559