Travel | November 15, 2022 7:06 am

An Exquisite Renovation Makes the Madrona More Alluring Than Ever

We visited Healdsburg’s crown jewel after the recent $6 million overhaul

The Madrona hotel sits on a hill in Healdsburg, California. We visited the boutique hotel after its recent $6 million renovation.
Even if you've stayed here before, the Madrona is worth a return visit.
Matthew Millman

There are historic hotels, and then there’s the lavishly restored Madrona. Once a private residence dating back to the 1880s, the mansion is now Healdsburg’s crown jewel. New owners Jay Jeffers and Cory Schisler purchased the property for $8.6 million in 2021 and completely revamped it, spending an additional $6 million to update the manor and expansive grounds. Reopened in April 2022, the restoration of the Madrona — formerly known as Madrona Manor — is part of a renaissance that’s sweeping through Healdsburg, which was once a sleepy little Sonoma suburb and now boasts a bustling Wine Country scene of its own. 

About five minutes off the central downtown square, the Madrona offers guests a more secluded setting, as the serene gardens and gorgeous landscaping are just as much a part of the property’s charm as the rooms themselves. There are eight rooms in the original manor house, all of which are slightly different, with nine guest rooms in the converted carriage house and five stand-alone bungalows sprinkled throughout the grounds, along with a pool bungalow and the owner’s loft. Perched on a hill, the property includes a saltwater pool, bountiful gardens, lawns and event spaces, tree groves, a gym and a private, uber-expensive owner’s suite. Basically, once you’re here, leaving to explore the rest of the city will be difficult. 

Since 1999, chef Jesse Malgren has helmed the Madrona’s on-site restaurant of the same name, which has not only picked up a Michelin star in the past but is also open to the public. Even if you routinely seek out Michelin-level food, Malgren’s concoctions are a cut above, and the property now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to make sure guests are well fed at all times. Look for weekly events like fried chicken Tuesday, and plenty of vegetables and fruits taken from the property’s own garden and local regenerative farming partners. The potato gnocchi with duck bolognese and fried sage is basically the Platonic ideal of pasta, and bread served with chicken schmaltz instead of butter was another surprising and decadent standout.

Of course, great wine is on the menu given the region’s rich selections, and specialities like the Estate Martini (elevated with a hint of their own nasturtium) or the Madroni — a blood orange-infused Negroni — pair beautifully with the food. Expect the entire outdoor veranda to be packed for dinner service; as such, reservations are highly encouraged, even if you’re staying at the hotel. For a golden hour drink or nightcap, the hotel’s front room, Hannah’s Bar, is open daily from 11 a.m. until about 10 p.m., better suited for a day drink or a quick afternoon nip than a late night of revelry. After all, in a manor, the space is much more communal, so keeping noise down later in the evening is a priority. 

Guest Room 3 at the Madrona Hotel in Healdsburg
Guest Room 3 at the Madrona
Matthew Millman

That’s fine, given that most visitors will want to spend the bulk of their time in the rooms themselves. With high, vaulted ceilings, massive beds and amenities like bay windows, custom fireplaces and built-in bars, these generous suites are expertly redecorated into apartment-sized escapes. My room had a corner bathroom with a step up into a gigantic shower area, all paved with chic black and white tile, and anchored by an oversized vanity. The toiletries available are from the cult-y “secret garden” makers Flamingo Estate, an L.A. brand by Richard Christiansen that specializes in herbal alchemy, and has a focus on elevating regenerative farming. The soaps, shampoo and conditioner are also available for purchase in the hotel gift store, a neat tie-in to continue supporting the brand if you fall in love with the shower experience.

With a focus on old-world hospitality, the Madrona is the kind of hotel that will continue to surprise and delight you throughout the stay. A substantial collection of artwork curated by Dolby Chadwick Gallery is scattered throughout the manor, most of which is available for guests to purchase. Other generous gestures, like electric bikes to head into town, or a private ride from the airport in the property’s house car, are all part of the experience. And something as simple as an early morning walk through the gardens, looking out on the valley below as the fog burns off, drives home the realization that sometimes a bucolic cure is the best hospitality of all.