Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Westin Verasa Napa

For years, the city of Napa - located near the southern tip of California's Napa Valley winemaking region - was a place to refuel the car and drive on. Now, sprouting savory restaurants, art galleries, live music venues, the foodie-favorite Oxbow Public Market, ever-more places to taste and buy wine, and several new hotels, it is becoming a destination in its own right.

Napa city is still a work in progress but progress is being made, due in part to the emergence of hotels that fill the space between upscale bed and breakfasts and downscale motels and motel-like lodgings. The most notable newish place is the 2-year-old Westin Verasa Napa ( My wife and I stayed there over the predictably rowdy St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Our stay was simultaneously both terrific and awful.

Awful because the rowdies filled the hotel and, fueled by alcohol, turned the elevators and hallways into verbal free-fire zones. Awful because sound-proofing inside the guest rooms was poor, letting all the noise from the hallways in, barely muting talking, weeping and laughing between rooms and failing to muffle traffic noise from the busy roadway outside the hotel. Awful because our bathroom was small and old-fashioned with a shower inside a small tub and not enough shelf space. Awful because there was a flat-screen TV in our room but, man, was it small. When city taxes and hotel amenity fees were tacked-on to the bill, the price rose from the listed $249 to an actual $306.


Terrific, too, because we had a lovely meal in the hotel's fine-dining restaurant, the Michelin-starred LaToque, helmed by the talented chef Ken Frank. Terrific because our standard room came complete with a sink, dishwasher, drawers filled with cutlery, an empty refrigerator, a microwave and a coffeemaker; we weren't staying long but if we had, it would have been a comfortable room to hunker-down in. Terrific because the hotel has a swell location walking distance from Oxbow Market and Napa's riverfront promenade and downtown. The Wine Train's Napa city station is across the street from the Westin. Terrific because the double king bed was commodious and comfortable.

So, it's fair to say this is a classically mixed review.

Some of our problems were due to happenstance, to be sure - St. Patrick's Day, for example - not the hotel. But the Westin also made an inexplicable error. It came at check-in, when the desk jockey gave us our room keys and wrote out the room number on paper while repeating it verbally. Three times, we tried opening the door at the room he told us about, using changing sets of keys. Finally, the front desk figured out that the original guy keystroked the wrong room number into the hotel's computer system, so when the keys were magnetized, they were programmed for another room.

All this may sound like this seasoned traveler is saying to other travelers: Don't stay there. Indeed, our experience is enough to prompt me to consider other options next time, but I'm not saying don't stay there. The Westin is not cheap considering it is a somewhat standard cookie-cutter hotel, but Napa city and valley are not cheap. The hotel's location is good and the staff was friendly and tried hard. Just know that there are some flaws and factor them in if you are planning a trip to this late-blooming but increasingly attractive city in northern California's Wine Country.

The Westin Verasa Napa is located at 1314 Mckinstry St., Napa, CA 94559 USA. Tel. 707.257.1800, toll-free reservations at 800.937.8461, Web:

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