During our recent trip to California wine country, we had the pleasure of staying at a very special place in the heart of the Napa Valley, The Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer. The charming, eight-acre property is conveniently located minutes from downtown St. Helena, yet is tucked away in a secluded haven surrounded by lush greenery, towering redwood trees and, of course, beautiful vineyards.
Originally established in 1975, the beloved 78-room hotel had become a bit time worn over the years and, in 2014, underwent an extensive renovation under the guidance of James Beard Award-winning Chef and hotelier, Charlie Palmer. Palmer’s goal was to transform this modest, wine country inn into a luxurious St. Helena resort, with all the modern amenities and cache that’s de rigeur in the tony surrounding areas today. While Palmer recognized the need for tasteful updates, he and his team were careful to retain the property’s inherent charm, including the intricate brick and woodwork throughout that make the property so unique.
Having stayed at the inn a few years prior to the renovations, the improvements were immediately evident upon our arrival. The dated hotel lobby has been transformed into a sleek, modern reception area featuring fabulous ambient lighting, chic indoor and outdoor seating areas and a welcoming, U-shaped bar. While much has changed however, the grand lobby staircase remains, serving as an architectural reminder of the property’s history. The structure is also home to the hotel’s new restaurant, Harvest Table, at which we were fortunate to dine during our stay – more on that later!
The thoughtful renovations also included extensive refurbishing of many of the hotel’s rooms which are grouped into “neighborhoods” featuring a variety of different views and amenities.
One newly renovated block is situated along the vineyards adjacent to the property, specifically Whitehall-Lane’s Leonardini Family Vineyards. Appropriately dubbed the Vineyard View Collection, these charming, spacious rooms are perfect for those craving the full vineyard experience. Each room features a king sized bed; an oversized brick, wood-burning fireplace; cozy club chairs and couch and your own private terrace with a jacuzzi hot tub. Other amenities include daily, complimentary wine country breakfast, mini bar water and juice, in-room wine (yessss!!!), wireless internet, parking and the use of an evening house car, two swimming pools, fitness center and weekend wine tastings.
We were fortunate enough to stay in one of these delightful rooms and let me assure you, there’s nothing like an al fresco soak with a glass of Schramsberg bubbly in hand for your weary, wine drenched body after a long day of wine tasting – pure heaven!
In addition to the fabulous rooms, one of the most wonderful features of the Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer is its verdant, lush greenery which imbues the property with a fabulous natural beauty and sense of privacy.
Gorgeous rose beds, stands of magnificent redwood trees, exquisite hydrangeas and perfumed wisteria all abound and, since it was mid-Fall, the trees were also resplendent with gorgeous, reddish gold leaves. Beautiful stone fountains, a rotating sculpture installation and a serene koi pond also punctuate the landscape, offering even more visual intrigue.
In addition to its beauty, the plentiful vegetation is also quite functional. There are five culinary gardens located on property, tended by expert Culinary Horticulturist Laura McNiff, whose bounty is featured nightly on the Harvest Table menu. The bar also utilizes an assortment of garden gems, including unique citrus (the Buddha’s hand lemons were very interesting!), as well as an assortment of herbs and flowers.
Tomatoes, kale, lettuce and bright orange “cheddar cheese” cauliflower were all in abundance. Hop vines also proliferate among the property as well as various espaliered fruit trees (persimmon, Meyer lemon, apple), lavender and wild strawberries. Guests are encouraged to help themselves to anything they know is edible – forget those M&M’s in the mini bar!
In addition to the greenery, the property is also home to three active beehives as well as a variety of wildlife which is unofficially documented by the small landscaping team. Denizens include bald eagles, red foxes, squirrels and raccoons. As you can imagine, with all its natural beauty the property is the perfect venue for special ceremonies and gatherings. During our visit, a lovely vow renewal took place on the splendid lawn. As the wine country sun set in the West, it created an ethereal ambiance for the lucky couple.
The Harvest Inn also offers spa treatment rooms for guests to indulge in their favorite massage, facial or treatment du jour. Care to enjoy your hot lava stone massage al fresco? The property also features private tents in case you’d like to receive your spa service (or couple’s service) outdoors – très romantique!
We had the great pleasure of dining at the Inn’s restaurant, Harvest Table, during our stay. In fact, our delicious al fresco meal was definitely a highlight of our trip!
Executive Chef Levi Mezick delighted us with his culinary skills and creativity, honed during stints with world renowned Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. Harvest Table’s farm-to-fork menu showcases ingredients from the property’s culinary gardens as well as many local purveyors. The California-focused wine list also features a nice variety of selections from around the world. Sommelier Sasha Hagenlock expertly guided us towards wines which complemented our meal and suited our price range as well.
We opted for many of Mezick’s inspired seafood dishes ranging from succulent Oysters with Horseradish Sorbet & Tarragon ($12), to classic Southern Pan Roasted Shrimp & Grits with Andouille Sausage, Cheddar Cheese & Smoked Bacon ($16).
Mezick’s dishes were also as beautiful as they were delicious, especially the Dungeness Crab Salad with Granny Smith Apple Gelee, Persimmon & Garden Herbs ($15) with gorgeous pops of bright green, orange and red, and the Bread Crusted Red Snapper with Coconut Rice, Sesame Bok Choy and Tamarind Essence featuring a golden, Panko crusted pavé of snapper set neatly atop creamy rice and delicately flavored tamarind foam.
Mezick also infused some added deliciousness into some seemingly ‘everyday’ ingredients, including mouthwatering Roasted Carrots with Buttermilk, Vadouvan & Granola ($6) which had fabulous flavor, color and texture, as well as his highly addictive Rock Shrimp Hush Puppies with Old Bay & Spicy Gribiche ($8). Chef also made delicious use of the one part of the pig nobody EVER seems to know what to do with! His Crispy Pig Ear Salad with Cilantro & Yuzu Vinaigrette ($6) featured delicious thinly sliced, crispy strips of meat which added texture and dimension to the flavorful salad.
Another apparent highlight of the Harvest Table menu is the Truffle Chicken for Two ($65). A word to the wise, however, it takes an hour of preparation time and while our schedule didn’t allow for us to indulge this time, we definitely look forward to it on our next trip!
While we contemplated forgoing dessert – we were SO incredibly glad we didn’t! Dessert was equally as enjoyable as our savory courses and included Roasted Sweet Corn Mousse with Blackberries and Lime Sherbet ($9), Chocolate + Peanut Butter Bar with Dark Chocolate Marquis, Peanut Butter Mousse & Chocolate Sorbet ($9) and my husband’s favorite, the Tasting of House Made Ice Cream and Sorbet ($9). The flavors and textures of each dish demonstrated wonderful attention to detail and a mastery of flavor that was greatly appreciated.
The idyllic Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer celebrates the vineyard way of life and offers its guests the chance to experience it firsthand in relaxed, rustic elegance. While conveniently situated in the historic hub of St. Helena with a plethora of well-known wineries nearby, the property’s landscape provides a stylishly serene retreat for its guests. Palmer has done a wonderful job integrating past and present in this special project, creating a harmony between the architecture and landscape while underpinning it all with a keen, experienced eye towards hospitality at every level.
Thanks to the Harvest Inn and its amazing staff for such a wonderful stay! For morning information on the Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer or its restaurant, Harvest Table, please see the information below or visit www.harvestinn.com.
Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer
1 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
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