A Taste of Thailand in Napa: Bann at Oak Knoll

The juxtaposition is unusual, but somehow, it works – a Thai-themed boutique hotel, set smack in the middle of Napa Valley vineyards, surrounded by grapes and with Vaca Mountain views. The brainchild of famed Thai chef Lalita Souksamlane of San Francisco’s OSHA Thai, Bann at Oak Knoll is an oasis of colorful calm and an ideal spot at which to unwind between de rigueur wine tastings.

Inherently peaceful due to its mere five rooms, and aided by the dulcet tones of soft jazz piped into the communal areas, the inn is a serene reflection of its country of inspiration, where life is lived outdoors. Here, emphasis too is placed on fresh air and sunshine, despite the ornate and inviting nature of each of the immense quarters, each of which the décor is based upon a different region of Thailand. Featuring rich textiles, low platform beds, and orchids – so many orchids – the rooms, and especially the bathrooms, are alluring. The deep, free-standing soaking tubs, beside which are placed bath salts and a fizzy ball, are especially irresistible, as are the plush and incredibly soft robes. A bottle of Chanel perfume adds an indulgent touch as does the plumeria-scented body lotion.

Yet, Bann is most about what’s outside those beautiful rooms. Guests are greeted in an open-air pergola, lushly furnished with colorful Thai textiles. Outside of each of the five rooms is a private dining table, poised towards the vineyard views, and at which afternoon tea and a  leisurely three course breakfast are graciously served. Afternoon tea includes a choice of hot or cold teas, and both sweet and savory items, including fresh fruit from local K&J Orchards. Breakfast, served between 9am and 10:30am, includes choice of coffee or tea, a basket of baked goods, more fresh fruit, and a main course choice of both American and Thai offerings. Each service is unrushed and unhurried. And anyone requiring a late-night snack can help themselves to chips and other goodies from the honor bar, where a Nespresso coffee maker stands ready to provide a caffeine kick.

Furthering the ‘outdoor living’ theme is the resort’s pool, deck, and hot tub, featuring unobstructed vineyard and mountain views. Within the expansive, vineyard-adjacent, organic gardens, from which Souksamlane sources ingredients for both Bann and OSHA Thai, are bistro tables, chairs, and swings, providing a playful vantage point. The property brims with art and artifacts from Souksamlane’s personal collection, such as pottery vessels, flowing fountains, and elephant carvings. (Elephants are the national symbol of Thailand, admired for their strength, endurance, and intelligence.)

While an overnight stay encompasses fewer than 24 hours, a stay at Bann transports, making time stretch a bit. For those who continue to have travel trepidation, Bann is a perfect getaway – seating areas are naturally distanced, and with just a handful of guests present at any given time, no one will be angling for pool seating. Bann may not be a substitute for a trip to Thailand, but it certainly feels like another world, one that well suits the Napa Valley.

Photos courtesy of Bann at Oak Knoll

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.