Underground Escape

Driving into Napa proper, I found myself thinking about what it may have been like before strip malls and traffic lights dominated the main road coming in from the south – when wine country was really country. Development is no doubt the result of a growing community and comes hand in hand with the region’s global popularity, but as we approached the sprawling The Meritage Resort and Spa, tucked away behind the facade of new Napa, these thoughts quickly began to fade. This was wine country.

The resort’s elegant lobby was dominated by a floor to ceiling fireplace surrounded by traditional couches and comfy chairs.  At the lobby’s far end, French doors and huge windows allowed for a peak at the outdoor pool and the green hilltop covered in vines that is the resort’s on-site vineyard.

I was directed to the resort’s new wing, a recently built multi-million dollar addition of comfortable rooms with amenities including flat screen TV, writing desk, pod coffee maker, expansive bathroom with two sinks and large standing shower. Many rooms extended out to a balcony or patio overlooking the resort vineyard, common areas or winding walkways.

I settled in and set off to explore the resort.  First stop, the Italian style Blend CafĂ© for a cappuccino and a scoop of heavenly gelato, then off to Crush Ultra Lounge.  A family gathering spot, sports bar, and game room in one, Crush is split into several areas – a fireside lounge, bar with flat screen TVs, and game areas that include a foosball table, pool table and six state of the art bowling lanes.

Impressed but yearning to be one with nature, I headed for the resort vineyard where walking paths circle around the hilltop vines and lead to Napa’s iconic Wine Crusher statue.  The scent of mother earth and the site of wild jackrabbits hopping along in the distance cleared my mind and prepared me for what was next.

Spa Terra, arguably the only spa in the world built inside a cave, is situated underneath the resort vineyard, offering total escape from the elements of the outside world. Walking through the cave’s massive arched entrance, I stood at the center of a cool, dark lobby and stared at three archways, one on either side, and the third straight ahead. It almost felt like a game - choose a door to see what’s inside.  I started to my right.  A narrow room lined with shelves displaying wine paraphernalia on one side, and a long bar with stools on the other, this was the Trinitas Tasting Room.  I took my time browsing bottle toppers, coasters and cheese trays before heading back to the lobby and the remaining two doors.  One was closed and led to a private room, and the other to the spa.

Greeted by a sizeable spa boutique, I admired salt rock lamps, beauty and body products until a charming woman tapped me on the shoulder.  She was Victoria Boscarino, Director of Spa Terra, and ready to take me on a tour of the spa.

Through massive double doors, a wide hallway with high arched ceilings doubled as a lounge where spa goers quietly enjoyed healthy snacks and sipped on cucumber infused water.  We ducked into the ladies changing room where at the far end, a calming water wall immediately caught my attention.  I began walking towards it, nearly stumbling into the Jacuzzi as Victoria explained that the cave was carved out specifically for the spa. Then, she left me to relax and enjoy.

I spent some time in the sauna and steam rooms before sauntering over to the peaceful relaxation room. Dimly lit, with an earthy feel, I rested and took in the silence broken only by the sound of falling water.  I was soon summoned by my therapist who guided me to a simple treatment room where I was to receive the Terra Massage – a twist on the classic Swedish.  Signature touches like a warm back compress and warm foot wrap ensured that all stress melted away and left me wanting more.

Rejuvenated and at peace, I made my way to Siena, where the savory menu included a selection of pizza, pasta and risotto in addition to entrees like black chanterelle crusted filet mignon and grilled Barramundi. I opted for the cinnamon and star anise braised Kobe beef short rib sliders, paired with a glass of the resort’s own Trinitas Sauvignon Blanc. Both were sinfully delicious.  Content as I was, my cheerful waitress suggested the chocolate soufflĂ© for dessert.  My sweet tooth and I took her up on it - and it was a good thing we did.

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