This past July we stayed at the Black Rock Inn in St. Helena, California in the Napa Valley Region. Unlike many of the places we choose to travel to, Napa Valley was swimming in bed and breakfasts. It was difficult to not only decide on just one, but also what region of the Napa Valley we wanted to stay in. Plus, cost played a factor, as places to stay there are incredibly expensive.
We chose the Black Rock Inn for the clean, modern look of their rooms and for the great reviews on Trip Advisor boasting of a wonderful host that will pack you a lunch for during the day and wine tastings at night from his private collection.
Black Rock Inn is situated on the Silverado Trail road, which is great for access to a variety of wineries. In fact, Duckhorn Vineyards is right across the street. If you are venturing to the inn, be wary that the inn sits on a sharp curve in the road and the speed limit is high. It wasn’t so bad on the weekends, but come Monday morning when the trucks are roaring down the road, it was a bit harrowing trying to get out of the driveway quickly. Also keep in mind that the roads are quite dark at night.
We arrived at the inn on Saturday afternoon after a nice lunch in St. Helena at the Long Meadow Ranch Farmstead. Unfortunately, our odd stay starts here. Blake and I have stayed at quite a few bed and breakfasts by this point, so we’ve come to expect a certain level of hospitality that they all offer. A host normally greets you, gives you a tour of the house and grounds so you feel comfortable in their home and not like a stranger, and then shows you to the room explaining things along the way. Jeff greeted us, and immediately showed us to our room, where he handed us a sheet of paper with specific things we might need to know and left us. He’s not an incredibly engaging person, and I could never get the vibe if that was just him, or the San Francisco/Napa Valley region in general.
A little while later he did help us find a restaurant we could go to in town for dinner. Cook was a very good restaurant with nice-sized portions that weren’t too big, but I’d say the service was lacking some. The friendly busser was more helpful than our server.
In the morning, Jeff does breakfast family style. Everyone had their own bowl of yogurt with fruit for breakfast and then he brought out bowls of scrambled eggs, potatoes and a platter of scones. While this is nice, we had the same breakfast three days in a row with only slight variation. In fact one morning he served us slightly brown guacamole that he had made the night before for a party with his friends. I realize we were the only ones at breakfast that morning, but it would be nice to have fresh food. The key to a great b&b is the variety in breakfasts they serve if guests are staying multiple nights. We had scrambled eggs and potatoes every morning, with only the sweet being switched out.
On our second night at the inn we traveled to Napa around dinnertime to walk around. Jeff had mentioned before we left that he would be having friends over for dinner. We had gone to many wineries during the day and weren’t really feeling it for dinner. Not to mention, Napa is a very interesting town. Along the river walk is very pretty with some nice looking restaurants, but the other parts of the town seem quite run down and a bit shady. It wasn’t what I was expecting to see at all. So we settled on frozen yogurt for dinner, because that sounded good. And ice cream for dinner when you’re on vacation is a perfectly acceptable treat.
When we arrived back to the inn, not a single light was on in the hallway for us to be able to find our way up to the room. We stood in the entryway for quite a bit of time trying to find a light switch. We also heard people in the kitchen, who once they heard us come in immediately said they had to go. I assume we crashed the party. Jeff invited us into his kitchen, and immediately laid into us for driving all the way to Napa and only getting frozen yogurt. I wasn’t quite sure what the big deal was, it’s our vacation. He was also three sheets to the wind, and in my opinion, acting completely inappropriate in front of his guests who had paid a pretty penny to spend the night there. He offered us some flank steak he had cooked for his friends and the guacamole that he then reserved us the next morning.
Aside from that, our room was quite nice and spacious there. We stayed in Suite 4, which sits in the back of the house. We had a nice little deck to sit out on with a glass of wine and a bathroom with both a stand-up shower and a jetted tub. The views are of the wooded hillside.
Pros of this trip? We had a lovely room. We met Jeff’s girlfriend Jennifer who is the tasting room manager at Muscardini in Sonoma and who we visited for a tasting. We ended up buying a few bottles of wine including our almond sparkling wine we opened to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary. Jeff did help us book a tour at Schramsburg and gave us a glass or two of wine during our stay.
Cons? There was no offer to make lunches for the day. There were no wine and cheese tastings at night like people said. I did not find the inn on a whole a very welcoming place.
I think Black Rock Inn has a lot of potential to be a great locale. I don’t think it’s fully there yet.
Black Rock Inn
3100 N. Silverado Trail
St. Helena, CA