At Sonoma's Stavrand Russian River Valley, low-key luxury and the great outdoors

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The restored Belden House overlooks the Stavrand's central courtyard terrace.
The restored Belden House overlooks the Stavrand's central courtyard terrace. Photo Credit: Emma K. Morris

Marigolds, sunflowers, tomatoes and squash vines spill from garden boxes at the Stavrand Russian River Valley, a Sonoma County resort that opened in late 2021. The afternoon air here in the Chef's Meadow carries the scent of mint and the sound of bees. Redwoods stretch skyward at every turn, setting a grand backdrop for century-old fruit trees that dot the six-acre grounds.

Rooms in the Stavrand's Cazadero House feature a mix of gas fireplaces, freestanding tubs and outdoor cedar hot tubs.
Rooms in the Stavrand's Cazadero House feature a mix of gas fireplaces, freestanding tubs and outdoor cedar hot tubs. Photo Credit: Emma K. Morris

Though downtown Guerneville's galleries and restaurants are just 10 minutes away on foot, I'm sticking to mulch-topped resort trails. As I ramble up a hill near the outdoor pool, a family of deer wanders out of the woods to munch on fallen apples.

Kimpton Hotels vet Emily Glick spent nearly a year transforming the former Applewood Inn to create the Stavrand. She named the 21-room resort for her grandparents, Grace and Erik Stavrand, who once operated a lodge in Vermont, and her late mother, Maribeth Stavrand, who worked as a travel advisor. Glick's serene California hotel offers a laid-back luxury experience that capitalizes on its scenic natural setting. Massage treatments might take place poolside, under the redwoods, for example, and some rooms feature open-air cedar hot tubs.

Skylights and a sun room

Stavrand guests check in on the main floor of the Belden House, a restored Sonoma Historic Landmark building named for the property's original owner. This 100-year-old Mediterranean Revival centerpiece houses renovated guest accommodations and cozy public spaces like the 500-square-foot Sun Room. A river stone fireplace anchors the room, and the surrounding redwoods shade walls of windows.

Next door in the newer Cazadero House, select rooms have gas fireplaces and freestanding soaking tubs. Second-floor accommodations in the adjacent Armstrong House are outfitted with skylights and spacious balconies overlooking the property's central courtyard. Across all three buildings, designers incorporated custom artwork, warm-hued wood furnishings, white linens and rich accent colors that echo the Mexican Talavera tiles used across the property. Room amenities range from free high-speed WiFi to organic bath products and portable lanterns for nighttime walks.

Redwoods surround the Belden House Sun Room, which is open to Stavrand guests and available for small events.
Redwoods surround the Belden House Sun Room, which is open to Stavrand guests and available for small events. Photo Credit: Emma K. Morris

Travelers often circle around the Stavrand's courtyard firepits to roast s'mores under the stars, after stopping by the Belden House for kits with dark chocolate and gluten-free graham cracker options. The cobalt and aqua Adirondack chairs here are also a popular place to sip locally roasted Black Oak Coffee and plan the day's adventures.

Complimentary seated breakfast is served daily in Stavrand Hall, a restaurant and event space set along the courtyard. Built to resemble the property's original barn, the indoor-outdoor venue has wooden beams, sliding barn doors and rustic light fixtures.

The breakfast menu changes daily, as the culinary team builds dishes around local produce and elements harvested at the resort. During a recent hosted stay, I sprinkled housemade pique hot sauce crafted from Stavrand-grown peppers over crispy potato cubes and cheddar scrambled eggs. Fresh fruit and fennel pollen top the overnight oats. Sonoma County's Red Bird Bakery supplies bread for avocado toast with pickled red onion and creme fraiche.

That farm-to-table focus extends to Stavrand Hall dinners, which are available by reservation on select nights of the week. Chefs source seasonal ingredients from regional farms and fisheries for each new menu, pairing entrees and desserts with wines by nearby Sonoma County producers.

Just down the road

Several Russian River Valley wineries are clustered between the Stavrand and Highway 101 and are within a 30-minute drive of the hotel. A few California Cheese Trail purveyors offer local tastings and tours, as well. Sonoma Zipline Adventures takes thrill seekers through treetop courses set 250 feet above the ground, while area parks promise a more relaxed northern California experience. At Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, about three miles north of the resort, trails wind through dense stands of 300-foot-tall coast redwoods. The grove's oldest tree, the Colonel Armstrong, is approximately 1,400 years old and more than 14 feet in diameter.

In Stavrand Hall, menus focus on seasonal and resort-grown ingredients.
In Stavrand Hall, menus focus on seasonal and resort-grown ingredients. Photo Credit: Emma K. Morris

Southwest of the Stavrand along Highway 1, Sonoma Coast State Park stretches along 17 miles of beaches, blufftop trails, coves and crashing waves. A colony of harbor seals lives at Goat Rock Beach, on the park's northern edge, and that's also where the Russian River spills into the Pacific. 

Guerneville-area outfitters rent stand-up paddleboards and sell tubes for travelers interested in floating the Russian River. The Stavrand provides kayaks for guest use, too, along with bicycles, lawn games, board games and books. When I visited the property, I heard travelers trade notes on under-the-radar swimming holes, area activities and downtown Guerneville restaurants during a complimentary daily wine reception held on a Belden House terrace above the courtyard. Resort owner Emily Glick hosted that evening's reception, pouring Sonoma County reds and whites while answering questions about her hotel, hospitality career and favorite local spots. I jot down some suggestions, say goodbye, and set off through the Chef's Meadow toward the pedestrian bridge into town.

Rates start at the Stavrand start at $375 per night. To book, visit www.thestavrand.com.

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