Q+A With Bardessono: Napa’s Luxury Eco Retreat

One of only three LEED-Platinum hotels in the world, the 62-suite Bardessono in Napa Valley, CA, is also an ultra luxurious boutique resort on par with the best hotels in America.

This property truly represents the pinnacle of eco-chic tourism and the future of the hotel industry where sustainability blends in seamlessly with even the highest levels of pampered guest experiences. Recommend’s contributing editor Greg Oates (and editor of our sister magazine, Prevue, which covers the meetings and incentives market) sat down with general manager Jim Treadway to talk about farm-to-fork food, private dinners with boutique winemakers, and where you can go to get a good massage. Turns out, you don’t have to go very far.

GO: Jim, how would you describe the overall vibe at Bardessono?

JT: It’s contemporary with a lot of recycled wood, stone and tile. The tufa stone, which is indigenous to the valley, was recycled from the original residence that sat on this site, the Bardessono family home. The wood is cypress, but it was all wood that was down. No trees were cut down to build this. And then there is some iron work on the exterior, but the overall effect is very contemporary, predominately wood and stone.

There are some elements to our design that are interesting and not very visible, like 972 solar panels on the roof structure and 72 geothermal wells, which enables us to heat and chill a lot of our domestic water supply, as well as the swimming pool. The solar panels provide about half of our electricity needs…. That upfront investment in sustainability is what enables our LEED Platinum certification, which is the highest certification from the US Green Building Council.

But the vibe is modern, it has a little bit of hipness to it, it’s chic, the landscaping is lush but more natural than many landscaped lawns. There are a number of water features also. There are four clusters of guestrooms, we call them Groves, ranging in size from 21 rooms down to 12 rooms. And those groves are named after the indigenous trees that are in them: The Magnolia Grove, the Olive Grove, the Cypress Grove and the Birch Grove.

GO: What effect does the appreciation of nature and layout at Bardessono have on the guest experience?

JT: The feeling is very private and inwardly focused around the landscaping, central water features and exterior art like the stone sculptures. Since we’re in the town of Yountville and we are actually in a neighborhood, our whole design is focused to give our guests the feeling of exclusivity and remoteness, even though they can walk out our front drive to the best restaurants in Napa Valley, if not the world.

And I’m referring to The French Laundry. And Bouchon, ad hoc and REDD, just to name a few.

GO: So it sounds like, even though your guests are tucked away in this magnificent, private little enclave, it’s not like they’re cut off from the world. Actually the opposite, the guest feels like they’re very much connected to nature and the environment due to the low impact construction and landscaping?

JT: Very much so. That’s exactly correct.

GO: But just how important is the LEED certification in attracting business?

JT: It can be important, it has been in the past. People that have values around sustainability, they are automatically attracted to us because we have shared values. They don’t want to spend money anywhere that isn’t extremely environmentally focused, and our LEED Platinum certification is the ultimate in environmental commitment.

That said, our other guests are here because we’re just an incredibly beautiful hotel—that’s luxurious and in a great location.

GO: If guests are interested in how all the various LEED components work together, do you offer behind-the-scenes tours?

JT: Oh, yes we do. You bet. We’re very proud of where we are with respect to our sustainability as an operation and as a series of structures. So we like to show it off, but we also don’t flaunt it. We don’t put it in the face of our customers because very frankly, some of our customers, they don’t care. They just want a really nice hotel.

So we have to succeed first on that platform: A luxury hotel competing with Calistoga Ranch, Meadowood, you know, competing with the top hotels in Napa Valley, which are also the top hotels in the U.S.