The town of Guerneville is an old logging outpost on the Russian River in outer Sonoma County, deep in the redwoods and equal parts funky and fecund. While there are lots of rental homes of varying quality available, and even more campsites in the woods, what the town has long palpably needed is a touch of elegance. And the opening of The Stavrand ushers in a welcome new era with gracious hospitality and a dose of historic gravitas.
Proprietors Emily Glick (formerly the GM of the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel) and guest services aficionado Santiago Ripley, who acquired the property in 2020 (a dicey year for business ventures of all kind, so a clear leap of faith), leave no detail unattended at this oasis of aesthetic abundance set on six acres, including an apple orchard.
With 21 guest rooms — the original 11 in the 1922 “Belden House,” built by Bay Area architect John I. Warnecke in Mediterranean Revival style, with the remaining rooms added in 1985 and 1999 in separate buildings — the property has once again come into its own with a restoration overseen by EDG Interior Design and Architecture with preservation as the core mission. So, the character of the original building is maintained, and the additions are faithful to it: textured stucco siding, low-pitched, hipped roofs with terra cotta tile, arched windows and doorways, and balconies looking out onto the courtyard and the woods.
There’s a pool (and poolside bar cart), outdoor yoga classes, in-room massage, and complimentary nightly aperitifs by the fire pit. We took a tour of the grounds after sunset and were provided with lanterns to light our way. It was chilly, and Santiago brought out warm apple cider spiked with Japanese whiskey — the perfect drink for that moment.
The culinary aspect of a visit here cannot be sufficiently underscored. Chef Jeremy Clemens and his team grow much of what they use onsite, and he cooks — how to put it? — in an utterly organic and whimsical way. You never know what might appear on the menu each night, but you always want to find out. (The restaurant is only open to guests, which gives the experience even more cachet.) Emily and other staff open a handful of bottles of wine to go with the night selections, and they roam around all evening generously topping off glasses. It’s clear that the chef has full control over the kitchen’s direction, which, despite a lot of press releases to the contrary, is a fairly rare phenomenon, and it’s downright exciting. Breakfast is just as interesting, though it’s a fact that the chef has a way (many ways, in fact) with potatoes.
The town of Guerneville is a 10-minute walk away, and it was on that winding path — past the dilapidating mini-golf course that has seen better days and across the bridge over the river — that it struck me just how special The Stavrand is, in the middle of nowhere and in the heart of everything.