Chandon California, celebrating 50 years in Napa, reimagines its Yountville property and tasting experience.
The new cabanas are prime spaces for private events.
There’s something timeless about vineyard walking. The earth seems more sacred, a symbiotic arrangement between Mother Nature, farming and winemaking. The leaders at Chandon California (chandon.com), including Stéphane de Meurville, the brand’s estate director, say the land played an important part in recreating experiences for guests. The design team spent three years revising indoor and outdoor areas, planting acres of native grasses (especially leading to the Oak Grove), reimagining the Epicurian Hub, adding cabanas and carving out a Kitchen Garden—all blended into a tableau of natural hues.
“The land dictates everything we do,” says Meurville. After spending 48 hours at the revitalized property, I can safely say it’s one of the most gorgeous spots in Napa. “We’re in the business of sharing wonderful things. We wanted to create a home and share it with the world.”
The Oak Grove offers a gorgeous setting for tastings.
It also feels like a residence, intentionally. “Every space here now has a function,” says Linda Taalman, the project’s architect and designer. “The feeling of home was part of every planning conversation we had. We want guests to feel like they’re visiting a great estate.” Chandon California is the first of the brand’s six wineries worldwide to transform; the renovation is also the first since Chandon opened to guests nearly five decades ago.
“My favorite part of the redesign is the number of spaces where guests can experience our wines depending on the vibe they want,” says Pauline Lhote, Chandon’s director of winemaking, a Champagne native who recently celebrated her 17th harvest with the brand. “There’s a space for everyone.” Guests will discover private platforms for surprise engagements or stargazing, and bridal parties and small groups will love sailcloth cabanas anchoring a verdant lawn.
The culinary experience at the new Chandon home matches the perfection of the wines.
The latter are unique. “When creating the cabanas, we wanted guests to enjoy a special, private and intimate space out in the landscape as if you own a piece of this real estate for the time you’re here among the trees, clouds and sky,” says Meurville.
The Epicurean Hub, the property’s restaurant with 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling windows and a barrel-shaped roof, is a masterpiece of sightlines and organic temperament. Salvaged cypress and redwood, ceramics (don’t miss the mushroom lamps), plaster and concrete comprise the materials. “Working with local artisans on furniture was a key element of the redesign,” says Meurville. “It reestablishes commitment to the community and sustainability.”
Breakfast in the vineyard
The restaurant offers guests a five-course menu, with local dishes like Tomales Bay mussels and Snake River Farm short rib and chanterelles paired with wines selected by Lhote. Adjacent to the indoor dining area, the Yountville Terrace—overlooking the Garden Lawn—presents another option for guests to wine and dine. Other spaces include a Micro-Bar (wines by the glass, small plates) and the Cove (a corner terrace perfect for private experiences). The Club Chandon Lounge, a member space, opens later this month for private tastings and exclusive events.
Of course, we come here for the wines. Lhote and her team continue to innovate each year (I’m still marveling over a sparkling Garden Spritz Tea’s Earl Grey blend), and the tasting route is varied.
Explore up to five experiences, including Chandon Mavericks (four unexpected sparkling wines) and Chandon Signatures (the brand’s pillars). “We love highlighting California brightness in the glass,” says Lhote.
The barrel-ceiling shape of the dining room mimics the winery’s mission.
Shortly after the sun crests a hill on the property’s 400 acres, I enjoy breakfast among the vines; any guest can experience this. A long, wooden table, stacked with sparkling wines, fruit, bread loaves and quiche, sits at the base of the vineyard. Blue skies prevail, and a soft breeze carries the scents of late-season sweetness and fecund earthiness across the table. My group clamors for videos and still images to feed the social media beast. But after a few minutes, the air up here—along with the volcanic soil at our feet—causes us to stop. We collectively take a deep breath and adjust our eyes to a dreamy place that feels like home.
Photography by: COURTESY OF CHANDON; BY MICHAEL MCCARTHY