Asian objets d'art and leather club chairs cozied up to the lobby fireplace are just a few of the graceful touches in this luxurious but understated bed-and-breakfast, eight rooms of which have been outfitted to provide a Japanese ryokan-style experience. Although the staff is helpful, the service never seems fussy, and there's a bottomless container of cookies in the common area.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The Gaige House website describes the inn as a "retreat for guests seeking relaxation and privacy." Children are welcome but travelers with children are asked to contact the innkeeper to discuss the best arrangements.
The individually decorated rooms in the main house, an 1890 Queen Anne, are mostly done in pale colors. One upstairs room has a contemporary four poster bed and wraparound windows to let in floods of light; another has a small seating area overlooking greenery. Four of the eight Zen Suites, all of which have private gardens and granite soaking tubs, face Calabazas Creek (these are the most desirable); the other four look out onto an interior courtyard. Zen Suites guests slip into zori slippers upon arrival and enjoy amenities typical of Japanese ryokan inns, among them tea service with cast-iron pots. The least expensive rooms are equipped with Keurig coffee machines, higher-priced ones with French-press coffee makers.
For the ultimate in seclusion, book one of the creekside Zen Suites.
The innkeepers' zeal to elevate every aspect of a stay manifests itself even in the bathrooms. Each has at least one eye-catching element, from a custom-made sink or whirlpool built for two to astonishingly large walk-in showers and those deep granite tubs of the Zen Suites.
In the house's early days, the two front rooms were part of the butcher shop run by the inn's namesake, Albert Ebenezer Gaige. The atmosphere is considerably more placid these days, to the right of the entrance at check-in and to the left in the handsome living room, where portfolios with the menus of the area's best restaurants sit on wicker coffee tables near the fireplace. Board games and books resting on dark-wood shelves are available for guest use, as are a computer and printer.
Magnolia, oak, and other trees shade the backyard and its small but idyllic swimming pool and hot tub. Lounge chairs line the pool's redbrick border, and egg-chair swings hang from the oak tree, whose massive branches extend over the large grassy lawn between the pool and Calabazas Creek.
A loftlike room in the main house serves as a spa. Guests (singles or couples) can book the space for private treatments that include Swedish and hot-stone massages and shorter sessions to relieve particular areas of tension. Lit candles and soft music enhance the soothing mood. Guests in the Zen Suites can have treatments in-room, and there's an outdoor massage deck available to all patrons.
The inn has no gym, instead providing passes to the full-service (machines, free weights, classes, a pool) Parkpoint Health Club in Sonoma to guests desiring a workout. The club is a 12-minute drive from the inn.
Longtime guests declare the full breakfast included in the room rate a major reason for their repeat patronage. For the buffet-style spread, served in a bright back-of-the-house space at tables with glass tops over white linens, the chefs prepare one or two hot dishes—eggs Benedict, perhaps, or quiche or pancakes. Pastries, granola made on site, yogurt, and fresh fruit are laid out as well. The coffee is excellent.
There's no bar, but the innkeepers place self-serve port, sherry, and sake on a sideboard in a clubby-looking room near the breakfast area. In the late afternoon, winery representatives (or sometimes the hosts) pour wine in the lobby, where cheese, crackers, nuts, and dried fruit are set out.
The inn is located about ½ mile south of the intersection of Highway 12 and Arnold Drive. It's possible to spend a day or so exploring downtown Glen Ellen's shops and tasting rooms on foot, but you'll likely be driving before too long. Sonoma Transit public buses serve the area.
"We don't have a dud in the neighborhood," says one Gaige House staffer of the several downtown Glen Ellen restaurants within walking distance of the inn, which provides flashlights to help guests find their way back up Arnold Drive after dark. The nearest restaurant, Glen Ellen Star (3-minute walk) serves haute-rustic Modern American cuisine, much of it emerging from a wood-fired oven. Or head to the Fig Cafe (5-minute walk) for California and French comfort food or Umbria Glen Ellen (5-minute walk) for inspired Italian. Farther along (both a 3-minute drive or 20-minute walk) are Aventine Glen Ellen for more Italian, and Yeti Restaurant for Indian-Himalayan flavors.
Time trip back to pre-Prohibition Glen Ellen at the redbrick Jack London Saloon (5-minute walk) for beers and good martinis and other standard cocktails (and sometimes spotty hospitality). In good weather, head to the patio overlooking Sonoma Creek. The bar at Aventine Glen Ellen (3-minute drive, 20-minute walk) is another lively spot to chat up the locals.
WHY WE LIKE IT
There's no other place in Sonoma or Napa quite like the Gaige House, which blends the best elements of a traditional country inn, a boutique hotel, and a longtime expat's classy Asian hideaway. The breakfasts at this creekside delight are sublime, and the genial staff dedicates itself to making sure guests experience Glen Ellen and the Sonoma Valley to the fullest.