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Best Spas for 2011


© Edward Duarte

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Farmhouse Inn, California

As a yellow Porsche Carerra pulled into the graveled entrance of the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, an hour-and-a-half drive from San Francisco, a young couple in robes and slippers headed to the spa just steps away from their barnhouse suite. Four friends who had been eating s’mores around the fire pit in the garden the night before were now sunning themselves by the pool. In the guest services cottage, a woman scooped homemade body scrubs and bath salts into small containers to use in the BainUltra air-massage tub and steam shower in her room. Her partner, meanwhile, was mixing a drink at the Italian soda bar and snacking on trail mix.

“Once you’re here, you’re in our home,” says Catherine Bartolomei, who co-owns the inn with her brother, Joe. “And you’re welcome to pretty much whatever you’d like to have. We want it to be like staying at a friend’s house, but with the service you get at, say, the Ritz-Carlton.” And though a hearty breakfast at the inn’s Michelin-starred restaurant is included in the cost of the stay, Catherine will be the first to insist “you’re not at a B&B—we’re not eating breakfast with you and telling you about our bunions!”

Indeed, the entire feel of the inn, its restaurant and its spa is very European. “We’re drawn to the Italian-French model of doing things,” she says. “It’s farmy and humble, but in a sophisticated way.” And its design—from the eight oversized, vaulted-ceiling suites in the rebuilt barn to the nine cozy cottages with wood-burning fireplaces and saunas to the chic room in the main house with its infinity tub and French farm basin—reflects that message well. So do the organic therapies in the small but completely gratifying new spa, managed by two former employees of the reputable Auberge Resorts. Rooms start at $275; farmhouseinn.com.

Of Note: The Spa at Farmhouse is all about farm-to-treatment therapies. Carrots from its two-and-a-half-acre garden and honey from its ranch as just two ingredients used to create all-natural toners and cleansers. —Deborah Frank

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