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Friday, May 21, 2010

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By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov

I travel much, and my travel karma is generally good, but it has a quirk.Whenever I’m going away for three days, the weather at my destination would change at least three times from hot and dry (or boiling and humid) to freezing cold with or without severe precipitations. There is no way for me to pack lightly, so obviously I like to travel by car. Especially that any car ride becomes a joy ride in Northern California, my home sweet home at the moment. On the day we traveled Russian River Valley and decided to revisit Applewood Inn in Guerneville, the weather was sunny, warm and pleasantly breezy. Until we stopped at Sonoma County State Park, that is. Eager to see and breathe the ocean, my husband Yuri and I drove to a deserted Goat Rock Beach, where the river joins the ocean. There we discovered that the car door wouldn’t open, tightly pressed by the relentless gusts of wind. My dear husband endured the challenge, got out of the car and took out of the trunk my trusty pea coat, scarf, and gloves. I just had to put it all over my short pants and a T, while still protected by the windshield, so aptly named, come to think of it. In two minutes that we spent on the beach, Yuri’s camera was clicking away, but I couldn’t really get more than a glimpse of a picturesque rock and stormy dark water, since I appeared to be exposed to a mighty stream as if coming out of a sand-blowing machine. When I started feeling prickly particles in my eyes and on my teeth, I decided that was enough of embracing Mother Nature, and ran for cover. My mood was dampened, mostly because my hair was full of sand, but I knew that the cure was mere minutes away. We were heading to Applewood! Those who know and love Applewood as much as I do might want to keep it a secret, but like all great things in life, it really belongs to humanity, so let me tell you about this place. The owners, Carlos Pippa and Sylvia Ranyak acquired the property last year when they decided to settle in a beautiful place where they would enjoy the nature, the weather, and the lifestyle of California Wine Country. When avid world travelers like Carlos and Sylvia pick a place you better believe this would be about the best place on Earth. The spouses used to own and manage a number of various businesses and to travel extensively, recently from Texas to Rio de Janeiro on a BMW motorcycle. Now, in their new role as Inn owners, they are trying to establish long lasting relationships with their colleagues, other Russian River Valley inn keepers, and local winemakers and to provide their clientele with a luxurious romantic experience in a serene and secluded natural environment.
Sandy beaches with volcanic rock formations and abundant wildlife, majestic redwood forests, and some of the best Sonoma wineries are just a short drive away from Applewood Inn. However, for an ultimate romantic getaway it would be better to stay on the premises and just soak in the atmosphere of this unique place. Every room in Applewood Inn has its own style, is lovingly decorated, equipped with a fireplace, some with Jacuzzi, and provides lots of rustic charm and comfort.
Smaller and cozier rooms are located in the original historic Belden House; larger ones are found in two newer buildings Piccola Casa and Gate House, reminiscent of an Italian villa and surrounding a rectangular courtyard with a soothing fountain and fragrant rose and lavender bushes.

An open air pool with a hot tub is framed by tall redwoods, and a few steps uphill over the pool area, there is an emerald lawn covered with marigolds where it would be great to suntan or have a picnic while enjoying the view of the surrounding hills.
The Restaurant at Applewood Inn is the owners’ pride and joy. Awarded top Zagat Guide honors, Diner’s Choice from Open Table, and ranked among the best by Michelin, Fodor and Frommer Guides, it is a destination restaurant at its best.
Its highly educated Executive Chef Bruce Frieseke, well-versed in both French and Italian classic cuisine, puts up a seasonal menu full of discoveries and delicious surprises.

On the night we dined, the chef extraordinaire served his own version of burrata. A silky morsel of ricotta cheese was wrapped in creamy mozzarella, garnished with green almonds and pureed sorrel, and decorated with golden calendula petals. Delicate new potatoes soup came with slippery pungent wild mushrooms, tiny bits of crispy bacon, Podere Cogno Leccino olive oil and purple chive blossoms. A perennial people’s choice cocoa nib crusted rack of lamb was accompanied by velvety and refreshingly green mint chimichurri sauce.
With a full bar and an extensive wine list featuring many excellent local varietals, the beautifully decorated in red, golden and chocolate hues restaurant with a large fireplace is ideal for small weddings and rehearsal dinners, however, it has a firm policy of providing enough quiet and private space for romantic couples who frequent the Inn. In the plans, there is a massage room and other spa services; Tuscan lunches several days a week, and going green with clean energy.
As for our own stay in room 13, I can’t remember feeling more inspired as when I was sitting by the fireplace at an antique writing desk taking notes for this story. Even after a thorough wash in our room’s sparklingly clean shower, some nasty sand particles were still felt in my hair, but for some reason it just couldn’t bother me any more. Visit Applewood Inn at 13555 Rte 116, Guerneville, California; 800-555-8509;


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