Maria Hunt

Correspondent

  • Oakland, CA, USA

Maria Hunt is a correspondent who lives in Oakland and covers the Bay Area and Wine Country for Forbes Travel Guide. She also is a freelance food and wine journalist for other luxury lifestyle publications. Hunt — who authored a book on sparkling wine cocktails — believes bubbly is meant for sipping anytime. She’s followed her love of fine sparkling wine and cuisine to Champagne, the Penedès outside of Barcelona, Poland and Italy. The Chicago native’s work has appeared in Forbes.com, The Christian Science Monitor and The St. Regis Bespoke, among other publications.

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  • On March 17
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Where is The Meritage Resort and Spa located?

    The Meritage Resort and Spa is located in the most famous wine region in the world: the Napa Valley in northern California. As you drive north on Highway 29 into the heart of the town of Napa, you’ll veer off onto Highway 221 to reach Meritage. It’s tucked away off of Napa Valley Corporate Drive on Bordeaux Way in an open area that’s filled with offices buildings and a few low-key tasting rooms. The luxury hotel is surrounded by low rolling hills furrowed with rows of vines. While Meritage is in the town of Napa, you’ll need a car to get to Main Street with its concentration of restaurants and shops. Popular attractions such as the Napa Valley Wine Train and Oxbow Public Market are about an eight-minute drive away. By car, The Meritage Resort and Spa is more than an hour from San Francisco or Oakland, depending on traffic.
  • On March 17
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the rooms like at The Meritage Resort and Spa?

    Like the rest of The Meritage Resort and Spa’s property at on the outskirts of Napa, the rooms offer a sense of place. The resort features more than 500 guest rooms and suites divided between two buildings with exteriors painted in warm tones that evoke Tuscany. The best rooms at the luxury hotel overlook either the central pool or the hillside behind the resort that’s planted in grape vines. The guest rooms share a neutral color scheme of beige, rust and cream and include balconies or patios. Whether you have a room with two queen beds or one king, they’re draped in crisp white linens accented by taffeta pillows Bath suites are spacious, with beige tile and amenities by Antica Farmacista. The accommodations in the adults-only Meritage Village building are a bit more upscale with a subtle brocade print on the wallpaper, sculpted carpeting and spacious walk-in showers with decorative mosaics walls. The rooms in the older building, which feature bathtubs, are being renovated to give them a more modern look. All rooms are equipped with flat-screen televisions, DVD players, a pair of plush robes, coffee makers and mini-refrigerators (which will soon be replaced with mini-bars). The guest rooms at the Napa hotel are plush and comfortable.
  • On March 17
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What’s the best time to visit The Meritage Resort and Spa?

    The Meritage Resort and Spa is a good year-round destination. The hotel is set in the famous Napa Valley, not far from the heart of California’s most storied wine country. The weather is quite temperate here most of the year, so there’s really no bad time to make the trip. The autumn and winter seasons can be rainy and a bit cold, but they’ve been much warmer than normal in recent years. On a sunny day, you’ll enjoy hiking or cycling in the area or maybe ordering a picnic from the luxury hotel’s Blend Café. Winter is considered the slow season for the valley, so you’ll be able to drive around and get into wineries for tastings much more easily than in summer. Springtime in wine country is beautiful as the vines start to bud, and summers can be quite hot. Still, since the climate offers the grape vines warm days and cool nights, we suggest you pack a light jacket or pashmina any time you come to the Napa hotel.
  • On March 17
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What restaurants does The Meritage Resort and Spa have?

    When you visit The Meritage Resort and Spa in the Napa Valley, you’ll find three restaurants: Siena, Crush Ultra Lounge and Blend Café. They’re spread among the buildings that make up the large resort. Located in the main building is the signature restaurant Siena, which specializes in Italian fare. Start your dinner with a glass of prosecco and then indulge in fritto misto (battered and fried shrimp and calamari), pappardelle with Bolognese sauce or prime rib paired with a selection of Italian wines. Blend is a good choice for a casual breakfast or lunch with its menu of coffee drinks, white hot chocolate, pastries and steel-cut oatmeal in the morning, or cobb salads, turkey panini and wraps at midday. If you’re looking for a festive place to have a meal or a martini, head to Crush Ultra Lounge in the Meritage Village building. The beverage menu features an impressive international collection of wines, beers and spirits, which complement casual dishes like fish and chips, burgers and entrée salads, such as one with spicy seared ahi tuna. Besides these three venues, the Napa hotel also has a wine bar in a quaint little cave. When staying at The Meritage Resort and Spa, you need not worry about having to leave the property to find something to eat or drink.
  • On March 17
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the design style of The Meritage Resort and Spa?

    The design style at The Meritage Resort and Spa is rather eclectic, as the unique hotel has some areas that look inspired by Tuscany and others that feel very contemporary. But no matter where you are on the sprawling property, you’ll be bathed in beautiful natural sunlight that’s so abundant in the Napa Valley. The exterior of the hotel is a deep mustard shade with a long trellis and tumbled slate turrets that evoke a Tuscan castle. Inside, the expansive lobby features a high-vaulted ceiling with exposed beams. The space is done in natural tones accented by a fireplace, mosaic tile floors and contemporary chandeliers with red lights. By contrast, Crush Ultra Lounge, a causal restaurant and bar with a six-lane bowling alley, has a retro-modern vibe with art glass pendant lights and bright cobalt-blue tables. Some of the more unusual features of the Napa hotel’s décor include the cave-like entrance that leads to either the Trinitas Winery tasting room or the spa.
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  • On November 19
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the tasting experience like at Bernardus Winery?

    When you visit Bernardus Winery in California’s Carmel Valley, you’ll find there are two levels of tasting experiences offered. The standard Bernardus Tasting gives you the chance to taste four of the winery’s core bottlings for a cost of $7.50. This flight includes 1.5-ounce tastes of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir made with grapes sourced from around Monterey County. The final taste is of the 2006 Marinus, a Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet franc and malbec.

    If you choose the Mr. Pon’s Reserve Tasting, you’ll sample more distinctive wines made with fruit sources from selected vineyards. During a recent visit, this $15 tasting featured a Griva Vineyard sauvignon blanc and Ingrid’s chardonnay and pinot noir from the Bernardus Lodge vineyard. The final wine is the signature Marinus. Although it’s the same blend as winery’s entry-level Bordeaux blend, this wine was made from the very best barrels and lots from that harvest. If you decide to purchase wine, one tasting fee will be refunded for every $75 spent.
  • On November 19
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are five things to know about Bernardus Winery?

    It’s impossible to capture the experience of a visit to the Bernardus Winery tasting room without going there. But here are five things to know before you go: 

    1. It specializes in chardonnay and pinot noir. The Central Coast region has a cool climate that’s perfect for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes with deep flavors and refreshing acid.

    2. The tasting room is cozy. Located in the heart of Carmel Valley, the tasting room is a petite and welcoming place where you can taste all the wines as well as pick up bath products from The Spa at Bernardus Lodge and wine-related gifts. 

    3. Marinus is the signature wine. While Bernardus Winery is known for its chardonnays, pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs, the signature wine is the Marinus, a silky and bright Bordeaux-inspired blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot and cabernet franc. Marinus (pronounced “Mare-EE-nus”) is the middle name of winery owner Ben Pon.   

    4. The winemaker trained in France. Dean De Korth studied enology at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune, France, and worked for top Burgundy producers for six years before returning to this country. He brings that French sense of balance and respect for the grapes to his winemaking.

    5. Wines are showcased at Bernardus Lodge. If you want to try the Bernardus wines paired with gourmet cuisine, we suggest you visit either the upscale-but-casual Wickets Bistro or the high-end Four-Star Marinus for a meal.
  • On November 19
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Where is Bernardus Winery located?

    The Bernardus Winery tasting room, which is where you can taste the winery’s award-winning chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs, is located in the heart of Carmel Valley. The tasting room is located at 5 West Carmel Valley Road, in the center of a business district that’s dotted with other tasting rooms devoted to Central Coast wineries. However, the exclusive Bernardus Winery where the wines are made is in a more remote area set in the hills of Carmel Valley. Bernardus Winery is not open to the public, except for one day a year when wine club members are invited for a harvest luncheon. If you’re interested in attending a tasting, call the winery at 831-298-8014. You’ll also find the wines on the menu at Bernardus Lodge’s Marinus restaurant and Wickets Bistro.
  • On October 17, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the dress code at Navio?

    From our recent visit to Navio, the fine-dining restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, it’s clear that the dress code is very relaxed. In fact, we’d go so far as to surmise that the main restaurant in the luxury hotel overlooking the ocean doesn’t really have a formal dress code. We visited Navio for lunch on a weekend, and were surrounded by other guests in golf attire, hiking clothes, jeans and casual dresses. Since the hotel boasts two golf courses, hiking along the bluffs and a pool, the whole resort has a very casual and sporty feeling. The informal vibe extends to the dinner hour, when most guests would probably feel comfortable in business casual attire.
  • On October 17, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the scene like at Navio?

    The scene at Navio, the fine-dining restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, is what you’d expect at a luxury hotel on the California coastline. The whole property has a beachy and relaxed vibe, thanks to the location on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s rather sporty, too, since the resort offers not one but two 18-hole golf courses — The Ocean Course and The Old Course. On weekends, the dining room is filled with casually dressed couples and families enjoying lunch at Navio after a hike or foursomes who meet for burgers and artisanal beers after a round of golf. The scene at the Half Moon Bay restaurant is comfortable and elegant, which is a perfect vibe when you’re on vacation.
  • On October 17, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    How do I get a reservation at Navio?

    It’s easy and convenient to make a dining reservation at Navio in The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. The main restaurant at the luxury hotel near San Francisco gets quite busy on the weekends, so reservations are definitely recommended. A table can be reserved by visiting the hotel’s website and entering the date, time and size of your party. You’re then transferred to the Open Table website to complete the reservation. Reservations can also be made by calling the restaurant directly at 650-712-7040. Guests staying at the Ritz-Carlton who want to dine at Navio can simply call the concierge, who will happily handle making a dinner booking.
  • On September 30, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Does The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco offer couples’ treatments?

    The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco does offer couples’ treatments in a posh private suite. The couples’ suite is in the heart of the spa and offers an expansive view overlooking the stone unicorn and lion on the façade of a historic building across the street in the Financial District. Inside, you’ll find a pair of massage tables side by side, as well as a pair of cream-colored chaise lounges with gold bolster pillows. You’ll notice the impressive gleaming onyx backsplashes on the pair of sinks spread with a full selection of toiletries; the suite also includes a private shower. The staff can customize your room environment by varying the brightness of the light and the hue as well. It can also put on soothing music, or bring your own MP3 player and having your favorite songs piped through the massage table. Though the San Francisco spa is new (it opened in October 2012), the luxurious couples’ spa suite has already been the site of at least one marriage proposal that was met with a yes.