For the last three years, my husband and I have ventured to California wine country for Labor Day. The first year we were in Napa and stayed at the Harvest House. Last year we were in Healdsburg and stayed at Honor Mansion. This year, we decided we did not need to spend $500 a night for a room and booked three nights at the Hope Merrill. We were very happy to find this inn and very much were looking forward to staying here after reading the positive reviews.
Our room was the Vineyard View and it was perfect. It was very roomy for a bed and breakfast room, looking out on the pool and the loquat tree. The window air conditioning unit worked great during the day and we opened the windows at night. The room had beautiful high ceilings and a little bistro table, complete with a carafe and wine glasses. As mentioned in many other reviews, most rooms do not have televisions, but this was not a problem for us. We both love reading, and after a day of wine tasting and great Sonoma cuisine, who wants to watch tv at night anyway? The only slight negative in our room was our double shower was not really double as one of the shower head holders (it’s European style) was broken so it really only worked for one at a time. This was not a huge issue and we decided not to alert the innkeepers because we knew it would mean either moving rooms or having repairs go on in our room while we were there.
We enjoyed the pool every afternoon, after an afternoon nap (essential after wine tasting and before dinner!). The grounds were nice, if a little bit neglected, with tons of potential. We found it odd that a wire fence separated the pool area from the vineyards. We’ve stayed in other hotels where you can easily walk through the vines. Since the door to the gazebo was under construction, it made it even harder to get to the actual vines. Again, not a huge issue.
As many others have mentioned, the breakfast is wonderful. It is served family style, with two of our mornings being a full table. We enjoyed talking to our fellow guests about wine, wineries, travel, and even politics!
Simply rating the inn on these factors would give it an easy 4 or 5 stars, especially given the great value for your money. My husband and I even said we would give it this rating the morning we left - right up until we checked out, when we realized we had not been imagining things for 3 days. We decided we would not be staying here again. The reason for this lower rating is the innkeepers, specifically Cosette, as we felt Ron was very nice.
When we arrived on Friday, Cosette greeted us hastily and handed us off to Ron as she was busy on her computer. This was fine and Ron did a good job of giving us the tour and showing us our room. The next morning at breakfast, we had our first real interaction with Cosette. Every morning, she comes into the dining room, hands out maps, and talks about wineries. This in itself is delightful. It is her presentation and treatment of guests as children that turns people off. The eyes rolling around the table at her delivery and shortness with guests are very obvious. She expects absolute silence and does not appreciate guests giving their opinions on the wineries. She bad mouths Napa Valley and larger or corporate wineries. I understand her opinion; I prefer Sonoma and smaller, family wineries as well. But, so much negativity is not pleasant at 9:30 in the morning and is not very welcoming to those guests who do like to visit those other types of wineries on occasion. I could have ignored this, but she tends to argue with guests. On our first morning, my husband asked about shipping wine home versus checking it on the plane and her thoughts on it (we have shipped 6 cases home over the last 2 years, but he felt it is always good to get another opinion on the best way to handle this). Her response “well, you would have to pay to check it on the plane!” in a pretty nasty tone. We tried to explain we got free checked baggage on our flight and she ignored us. It was not worth explaining. Cosette then went into a long diatribe about Congress and wine shipping. We explained the law she was referring to was no longer in effect and state laws are the hold up now, as we both worked for Congress at one point, and she continued to argue with us. We eventually dropped the issue as it was evident she was not interested in knowing the truth or new information.
I also asked if we needed an appointment for Unti Winery (their website and the information on the map said an appointment was necessary) and she rolled her eyes and said no, that was simply how they got their license; no one went there with an appointment according to Cosette. We went to Unti and we most definitely needed an appointment. The woman who poured our wine was very accommodating, but the owner, Mr. Unti was there and he was very annoyed with our party crashing and was definitely rushing us out the door. I understand it was a holiday weekend and on normal weekends an appointment might not be necessary, but someone running an inn should know this and inform their guests accordingly.
During previous stays in Wine Country, we have had great conversations with our inn keepers or staff about their favorite wineries or great restaurants (we got great winery ideas at the Honor Mansion last year and the staff at the Harvest House made us reservations at a wonderful restaurant and even gave us a free winery tour book after talking for 10 minutes). This did not happen this year. Cosette disappeared right after breakfast and did not appear interested in one-on-one conversations.
Morning 2 went similarly. I was very careful not to talk during her presentation, while she glared at people who were. I asked for some recommendations on wineries with good pinots in Russian River, as that was our planned destination for the day (keep in mind I actually had to raise my hand for her to take my question. This university instructor felt like I was back in grade school). She rudely pointed out she does not drink Pinot and threw out a couple wineries. She did suggest Iron Horse, which was already on our list for the day and was very enjoyable. She said Iron Horse was served in the White House. I happily added so was Korbel. Cosette rolled her eyes at me and disagreed. I did not point out I know for a fact that Korbel has been served in the White House. She missed the patriotic point – it is very cool American presidents serve Californian sparkling wine (no matter the maker), rather than French or Italian, at official events.
My husband and I laughed at these instances, just chalking it up to an eccentric innkeeper, even when she had no interest in where we were going for dinner or which wineries we visited (I only mention this because previous innkeepers have always been interested in these things). We thought maybe she was upset we missed the bbq at the inn one night. We had dinner reservations at the Farm House, which we did not want to miss. We finally decided no one penalizes their paying guests for enjoying one of California’s greatest restaurants.
It was our last encounter, on our last morning, which sealed the deal and prompted this review. We had packed up the car and were ready to leave. We went back into the inn to say goodbye and hand in our key. My husband walked up to Cosette, who was talking to another guest and waited until a pause in the conversation. He said, “Can we check out?” and held out the key, politely. She opened her hand, glared at him, and he dropped the key in her hand. She then went right back to talking to the other guest. No “thank you for coming.” No “I hope you had a nice stay.” No “have a safe trip.” No words at all. It was the most bizarre experience we have ever had anywhere. As we drove off, I was flabbergasted by her treatment of us over the past three days. I asked my husband if it was maybe a case of her simply not liking us (even though we have traveled extensively around the world and never had such a personality conflict before; usually we have great interactions with innkeepers, hotel owners and staff, and restaurant owners/staff) and he said that should not matter. She should have been nice to us no matter what, as her customers. I realized he was right. We also witnessed her disrespectful and rude behavior towards other guests, but I will leave it to them to write.
This was not a review I wanted to write. I take no pleasure in writing it, nor do I enjoy specifying personality issues with an owner of a bed and breakfast. I use reviews every single time I travel, thus I decided I needed to write this review so others could be prepared. Without factoring in Cosette’s cold and rude behavior, this inn would have been rated higher. However, for me, she needs to be factored in as her behavior was a definite black mark on an otherwise lovely weekend.
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia so you can book your Hope-Merrill House reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.