The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Review
A California Wine Country Spa Getaway
By Irvina Lew
A view of the Spa Rotunda at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Sonoma, the physical location, refers to both the sweet, eight-mile square small town and the surrounding county where 85 grape varietals are grown. This California wine country destination is often called America's Tuscany and is located just 4O miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa was our home-away-from-home recently, and it's only five minutes from the town's old fashioned town plaza. Our gorgeous garden lodging was a sumptuous Spanish Colonial-style suite with arched doorways and a comfy sitting area facing a fireplace. The grand tub had a view through the room to the fountain and plantings on the terrace.
Scenic Sonoma Highway is lined with vineyards and olive groves, mustard and lavender fields; near Sonoma it's a rural road along the 17-mile valley. We visited wineries and enjoyed tours and tastings at Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards, Arrowood Vineyards and Landmark Vineyards. One morning, we took part in a winemaking blending seminar at Chateau St. Jean, where the formal gardens enhance the experience.
Afternoons were reserved for the hotel's spectacular, state-of-the-art spa. The fabulous 40,000-square-foot, multi-floored space features a rotunda, 36 treatment rooms and indoor and outdoor pools. In a serendipitous coincidence, it is one of only a few luxury spa resorts in the United States that happens to be on a site with its own ancient source of thermal mineral waters. These natural thermal mineral waters have 24 traceable minerals and are recommended for healing and relaxation. They flow 1,100 feet directly beneath the Inn at 135 degrees, so the waters have to be cooled for guest use in the various spa pools and Jacuzzi.
We begin our spa sessions with a Bathing Ritual which starts in an oversize shower where we exfoliate. Then, we ease into a warm Roman Bath (Tepiderium), heated to 92 to 96 degrees and follow that by jumping into the 102 degrees hot pool (Caldarium). Finally, there's a cool down under two-foot mega showerheads to prepare the body for the herbal steam room and then the sauna. The Bathing Ritual ends with a relaxation period in the resting lounge after drinking a large cup of water to properly rehydrate.
Among the specialties, here, is a vinotherapy service—a Grape Seed Body Polish—and the hard-to-find Watsu massage that takes place in an outdoor pool which is heated to body temperature. A Watsu practitioner uses Shiatsu-like movements and pressure to lift and twirl, massage and stretch the body. Like a ballerina floating through air, we felt weightless during this hour-long session ($169 for hotel guests includes use of spa facilities).