There was a time when gas mileage and engine type were the determining factors in car purchases. Now, it seems that perks are just as important as horsepower — well, at least that appears the case with Lexus.
The upscale carmaker known for its forward-thinking fleet, has taken customer care to new heights with Lexus Owner Rewards, a program that showers owners with choice parking spots at concerts, lounge entry at sporting events and discounted tickets to affairs such as June’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
There are also amazing bonuses at upscale hotels around the country, from Boston’s Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star XV Beacon ($100 dining credit) and New York City’s The Beekman, A Thompson Hotel ($50 minibar credit) to Tennessee’s Four-Star Blackberry Farm ($100 resort credit).
One of the destinations that is teeming with perks is California’s Wine Country, where a host of high-end hotels and businesses go the extra mile for Lexus owners.
We recently got behind the wheel of a 2017 Lexus GS350 to experience the car’s peak responsiveness and impressive handling on 101 North for ourselves. During the three-day jaunt around the region, we also tried out the Lexus-sponsored exclusives to see if they added anything special to our travels.
As new Lexus RC 200t or RX 450 owners already know, the ride’s so smooth in these vehicles that you probably won’t even notice the stop-and-go traffic from San Francisco to Sausalito. Luckily, Cavallo Point rests just across the Golden Gate Bridge in a quiet corner that used to be Fort Baker military base. In fact, a few of the accommodations at the 142-room property still resemble barracks from the outside. And yes, a staffer raises and lowers the American flag daily like clockwork.
Check into one of the rooms on the hill at Cavallo Point, the sister property to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Post Ranch Inn, and you’ll want to salute the designers for their contemporary take on California chicness and thank the architects for positioning rooms so that you have breathtaking views of the bridge.
A stunning, nature-inspired spa sits just a few hundred paces from your bed while another onsite distraction, the Cavallo Point Cooking School, serves as a place where chefs like Tony Adams teach you how to prepare seared chicken marsala, baked local apples and other dishes that soldiers wish they had in the mess hall.
Everyone can take advantage of these delicious benefits, but Lexus owners get the bonus of a complimentary room upgrade, daily breakfast for two and a $100 resort credit.
After a refreshing evening at Cavallo Point, head north on the 101. Though green hills and colorful vineyards will do their best to tempt a detour, fight the urge until you’ve made the 63-mile trip up to St. Helena. There, you’ll stop at Clif Family Tasting Room.
World renowned for its tasty energy bars, the Clif family has built a name in grapes (Clif Family Winery) and is slowly becoming a respected one in gastronomy. At this cozy general store/restaurant/tasting room, stock up on chocolate chip peanut crunch bars, purchase the 2012 Kit’s Killer Howell Mountain Cab and nibble on funghi bruschetta topped with fontina and chives from the Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck. Lexus owners receive a gratis food-and-wine pairing for two.
When you finally put down your fork, make the 15-minute drive to Bardessono Hotel and Spa, a Four-Star gem that doesn’t know if it’s more proud of its LEED Platinum-certified stamp or its lavish amenities. Among the earth-friendly touches, the hotel impresses with solar-paneled roofs and tables made from salvaged trees.
As for extras that go beyond the $100 dining credit given to Lexus owners, you can find them in the form of dual-sided fireplaces in the room, garden-inspired fare at Four-Star Lucy Restaurant & Bar and the house Lexuses — hybrids, naturally — out front. Borrow one for a day exploring the town or opt to melt away in the LX 570’s butter-soft leather backseat and have a valet chauffeur you wherever you need to go.
The combination of a great meal, an in-suite massage and a deep sleep on a king bed covered in 100 percent Egyptian cotton Fili D’oro linen sounds like the making of a late checkout. But if you can somehow muster the energy to get up, you’ll be rewarded with tremendous vistas along the Silverado Trail that won’t be obstructed by too many other cars.
Stop alongside the road for the requisite Instagram post between the grapevines, but do stay on schedule to make your afternoon tour and tasting at Hall Rutherford Winery, which is about a 10-minute drive from Bardessono.
Completed in 2005, the Rutherford outpost (there’s another 33-acre location in St. Helena) is a state-of-the-art production facility for world-class reds. During your tour — Lexus owners get preferred access to the 90-minute appellation exploration — you’ll learn about the history of Napa Valley’s terroir and get an up-close look at fermenters before passing through a cellar that leads to the aptly named Chandelier Room, a spectacular space highlighted by Donald Lipski’s Chilean Red, a light display that’s accentuated by 1,500 Swarovski crystals.
When you finish sipping on cabernet sauvignon, hop back in your car. The trip from Hall Rutherford to Meadowood Napa Valley is only about 10 minutes, not very long for a true appreciation of the local topography. Thankfully, the Four-Star Meadowood is hidden among its own tree arrangement. Reserve one of the Estate Lodges and you’ll look onto the maples and the well-tended golf course.
Take a walk up to the labyrinth for a closer look at the fauna. Stop by the glorious new Five-Star spa for a hands-on introduction to the flora — no, really, the three-hour From The Gardens treatment incorporates seasonal herbs and freshly plucked ingredients in the massage and accompanying meal.
Chef Christopher Kostow is one of the most inventive culinary minds in the country. He also happens to be a Lexus Culinary Master, meaning he’s a gourmet genius who shares cooking tips on the brand’s website, makes public appearances and generally upholds the company’s standards of excellence.
When you come to Five-Star The Restaurant at Meadowood for dinner, there’s a decent chance that, between heavenly courses, Kostow or someone from his talented team will stop by your table to say hello. The executive chef is so congenial that we don’t know if the encounter is the result of another Lexus plug or simply a reaction of his warm demeanor. Either way, getting a signed copy of Kostow’s A New Napa Cuisine is almost better than dessert.
The final destination on your road trip is Stags’ Leap Winery, situated just 11 miles from Meadowood. While Lexus owners aren’t given added attention here, they will appreciate a visit to one of Napa’s finest cab and petite sirah makers.
Established in 1893, Stags’ Leap Winery (not to be confused with nearby Stag’s Leap Cellars) is perched on a slightly elevated part of the Stags Leap Palisades, an area that allows for primo wine sipping on the porch and brilliant photo taking of the grounds.
We’re certain you’ll want a closer look, so go ahead and reserve a space on the estate tour and tasting. The experience will teach you about the 19th-century stone building and allow you to sample a few selections.
You’ll likely need at least one bottle of Sonoma County Malbec or Napa Valley Winemaker’s Muse for further examination. If you’re heading to the airport, Stags’ Leap can ship your order to your front door. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be making the drive home in a Lexus coupe or SUV, it’ll make sure your precious cargo is nice and secure for the ride back.