An Exquisitely Curated Stay in Healdsburg

The Madrona artfully blends history, nature, and design in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country.

AS I DRIVE up the winding road toward The Madrona, an oasis-like boutique hotel in the charming town of Healdsburg, California, I roll down my car windows to take in the crisp air and raw aroma of Sonoma Valley wine country — and spot vibrant yellow, red, and orange maple trees between the eponymous madrone trees, their leaves sprinkled across the property’s sprawling lawn.

A Victorian mansion dating back to 1881, itself framed by towering palm trees, serves as the centerpiece of the property’s eight-acre estate, which was originally a private residence. It became The Madrona after the San Francisco-based interior designer Jay Jeffers, together with his brother Kyle and longtime friend Cory Schisler, purchased it in 2020 with the intention to both preserve the site’s history and give it a new life.

Nearly as soon as we park, my dog Uni drags me up the side steps of the wraparound porch, greeting guests enjoying martinis and negronis as he makes his way to the lobby. This is his second visit, and it appears he remembers the selection of treats at the front desk. The distinct smell of rosemary from one of Flamingo Estate’s signature candles greets us as we enter. (The Madrona marks the Los Angeles household essentials brand’s first hotel partnership, and its fragrant products also populate each guest room.) A rotating art collection curated by the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco adorns the ground floor’s brightly colored walls, giving the space a gallery-like vibe, particularly as several of the pieces are available for purchase.


As for the guest rooms, there are only eight within the main building, which makes the mansion feel like a home — albeit an exquisitely curated one, with no two rooms alike. Each cozy accommodation houses a tasteful mix of present-day and antique furniture, including at least one piece from the mansion’s original owners per room, such as the beds now draped in Bellino Italian linens. When Jeffers acquired the property, he inherited over 750 pieces of furniture. Other distinctive details comprise textured wall and ceiling coverings, rotary phones, marble coffee tables, and fireplaces. Our room also contains a welcome basket of goodies for Uni because (just like guests) visiting dogs are treated as part of The Madrona family.

Guest rooms with balconies overlook orange and lemon groves and a garden that grows seasonal produce, which is served in the on-site restaurant, where fresh ingredients and California flavors reign supreme. Across the lawn, the property’s original carriage house offers nine additional guest rooms with referential decor, including the building’s original horse columns. There are also seven individual bungalows with private entrances and patios, and in warmer months, guests are invited to cool off in the inviting pool before borrowing an e-bike to explore downtown Healdsburg or one of the region's renowned wineries.

As we settle in, the sun begins to set and the temperature drops. I wander downstairs to the fireplace to enjoy oysters and a signature cocktail of mezcal, tequila, and estate-grown bay laurel; Uni curls up near the flames for a quick nap. We end the evening with a stroll around the grounds to observe the fog’s arrival and take in vineyard views before retreating to our room for an early yet entirely satisfying night.

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Our Contributors

Elissa Polls Writer

Elissa Polls is the head of production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Polls has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.

Aya Brackett Photographer

Aya Brackett is a commercial fine art photographer who shoots portraits, still-life, food, travel and conceptual work.


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