A historic piece of property in Guerneville, known to locals as The Applewood Inn, is once again welcoming guests. This time, with a new look and a new name — The Stavrand Russian River Valley.
Dating back to the early 1920s, the property includes local landmark The Belden House, a Mission Revival home designed by architect John Carl Warnecke as a country retreat for Guerneville banker Ralph “Rooster” Belden and his family. It was converted into a bed and breakfast in the early 1980s.
During the following decades, The Applewood Inn became a popular destination for locals and Russian River vacationers. The inn and its restaurant then faced some challenges in the 2000s, including financial difficulties, before it eventually sold in late 2020 to the owners of The Stavrand Russian River Valley.
The new owners, Emily Glick (former general manager at the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in San Francisco) and Santiago Appleton Ripley (part of the original team at YouTube) set about returning the historic property to its former glory by renovating the 11 rooms in The Belden House and an additional 10 rooms in two buildings on the nearly six-acre site just south of downtown Guerneville.
“We could appreciate the ‘good bones’ of the place, the luxury touches like hot tubs and fireplaces, and of course the stately redwoods and orchard trees throughout the property,” said Glick. “The hotel just needed a full interior revamp to re-emerge as a luxury boutique hotel, with internal quality matched to the unparalleled setting.”
Armed with a vision, investor backing and a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, Glick and Ripley have transformed the former Applewood Inn into an elegant Russian River Valley hotel. The terracotta exterior has been painted white, the roof retaining its red tiles, and the 21 guest rooms have been carefully renovated and modernized in order to preserve the property’s historical character. Custom art work and wall coverings now decorate the walls and in-room fireplaces ignite with the press of a button. Guest rooms come with freestanding soaking bathtubs or outdoor cedar hot tubs and there’s high-speed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios in every room.
The Belden House, in addition to its 11 rooms, features public spaces like a pool and hot tub area and a sunroom that fills with natural light in the afternoon. The remaining 10 guest rooms are located in the hotel’s Cazadero and Armstrong buildings; eight and two rooms respectively. The hotel’s most modern rooms are in the Armstrong building, according to Glick, and come with jacuzzi tubs, cathedral ceilings and sweeping views of the surrounding redwoods.
While the reimagined property and its sylvan setting are reason enough to get a Russian River staycation on the books, a reservation at The Stavrand also gives guests the opportunity to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, which is only open to hotel guests. A culinary quartet led by chef Jeremy Clemens, previously of Layla restaurant at MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa in Sonoma, is off to a blazing start with creative dishes like Jjampong (Korean noodle soup) with prawns, clams, mussels, bok choy and alkaline noodles; Oakridge Angus NY Strip with charred onions, pickled peppers and shoyu; and Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. (Do your best to save room for dessert. We’re still dreaming of the olive oil pound cake with candied citrus and strawberry meringue.)
Breakfast, included with every stay, is equally impressive. Topped with fresh fruit, dried fruit and fennel pollen, overnight oats have never looked or tasted so good. In addition to a delicious take on avocado toast, the smoked salmon toast is a standout. Then there’s the crispy patatas. A cross between a hash brown and a tater tot, they melt in your mouth.
The restaurant’s menu changes with the seasons and features produce from the hotel’s Chef’s Meadow. The garden is situated next to apple, quince, fig, apricot, pear and plum trees, many of which date back to the 1920s, when they were planted by Belden. This is Ripley’s favorite spot on the property.
“When our orchard is in full bloom, you can meander through the meadow, sampling a variety of fruit fresh off the trees,” he said. “Forest and juvenile redwoods frame the [Chef’s] Meadow, and the mulch walkway invites you to stroll into town.”
For those who prefer to do a little exploring during their stay, downtown Guerneville is just a 10-minute walk away, via a pedestrian bridge. Along with complimentary bicycles, coolers and picnic blankets, The Stavrand also loans kayaks and inner tubes to their guests, making it easier than ever to enjoy warm summer days floating down the Russian River. It may seem hard to believe right now, but summer will be here before we know it.
The Stavrand Russian River Valley, 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-869-9093, thestavrand.com. Rates start at $446, $295 in the off season.