4-star vs 5-star | what's the difference?

Junior Suite bedroom @ Villagio

What difference does a star make? Readers of Travel Horizons, or folks who follow me on Facebook, will recall my recent trip to Meadowood. On the drive up to St. Helena, I stopped off in the village of Yountville to do a site inspection visit of Villagio and Vintage House, two new additions to the family of Virtuoso hotels and resorts.

Villagio is right in the center of Yountville, a very cute village in the heart of the Napa Valley, perhaps best known as the home of The French Laundry, Thomas Keller's celebrated Michelin three-star restaurant. One of the advantages of staying in Yountville is that you're right in the center of things. A very convenient location, you don't have to drive to get places. Visitors can walk around town, enjoy different restaurants, visit wine stores, and shop, all without getting into their car.

Villagio and Vintage House are extremely attractive resorts that I would describe as very high-four-star boutique hotels. On driving up to the front door of Villagio, I was met and greeted by name. A valet parked my car, and I entered the open and inviting lobby which featured a reception desk, sitting area in front of a large fireplace, pool table, and wine bar. The sister hotels are both part of the spacious Estate at Yountville which offers a number of venues at which to enjoy Michelin-starred dining, retail therapy, and spa experiences.

Pictured above is a Junior Suite at Villagio, a large 595 square foot accommodation. The bedroom is decorated with hardwood paneling and features a gas fireplace and large screen wall mounted television. There is a separate sitting room, and the bathroom features a large soaking tub, step-in shower, and dual vanities. The room is comfortable, attractive, and quite reasonably priced (currently $465 mid-week, $875 weekend in March). In addition to a complimentary daily buffet breakfast, my guests enjoy a $100 resort credit that you can use at the spa or (what I'd suggest) for dinner at Bottega. I highly recommend the Spaghetti Gragnano all Sophia Loren — the pasta is cooked in tomato water and is quite wonderful.

With comfortable, spacious, and attractive accommodations, Villagio is conveniently situated for your visit to Napa Valley.

What do you get with a fifth star? Meadowood is as good as it gets, the winner of Forbes' five star designations for its hotel, its spa, and its restaurant (one of only twelve resorts in the world to be awarded all three). I stayed in an Oakview Room (the same size as the Junior Suite at Villagio).

Oakview Room @ Meadowood

Meadowood is nested on its very private 250 acre estate in a mountain valley filled with indigenous Live Oak trees. The estate is secluded, located outside the village of St. Helena.  I loved my Oakview Room (pictured above). Its interior was styled with the white board-and-batten that one sees all over Meadowood, giving the resort a light, airy New England feel.

What can I say about the spa? Wow! Typically, I am not wowed by the aesthetics of resort spas. To me, a massage is all about what happens with my eyes closed, face down on a massage table ... but the newly completed Spa at Meadowood was a revelation. My sixty minute treatment was contained within a carefully choreographed 90 minute window of time that had me thoroughly relaxed before the body work even began. There was a transcendent elegance to the total experience that's hard to put into words.

The Restaurant at Meadowood — with three Michelin stars of its own — was likewise wonderful. Our group enjoyed a tour of the kitchen before dinner ... and our dinner was so delicious. For breakfast the next morning, I ordered this bowl of granola. I've never seen such a beautiful presentation!

What's the price of an extra star? This Oakview room at Meadowood, for the same dates I quoted at Villagio, is $1100 mid-week, $1250 on the weekend. Luxury guests who desire and expect the very best of the best will truly appreciate the experience.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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