Au Courant in California

With a nod to the past and a view of the future, Suzanne Tucker redesigns the renowned Auberge Du Soleil restaurant in Napa Valley.
Suzanne Tucker stands next to a console table.
Suzanne Tucker masterfully redesigned the restaurant at Auberge du Soleil without compromising the timeless style of the original designer, Michael Taylor.

In the heart of agriculturally rich Napa Valley is a singular destination, Auberge du Soleil. Long renowned for its distinctive style—one that captures the joie de vivre of the South of France while seamlessly folding in the local carefree California vibe—the resort has recently undergone a notable renovation to its Michelin-star restaurant and its casual companion, The Bar. What makes this full-scale reimagination so successful is the thread that ties together the original designer, the late Michael Taylor (who basically invented the California Look), with another iconic Californiabased designer, Suzanne Tucker. Suzanne worked in Michael’s firm early on, and her warm, polished style echoes his rustic glamour. “Staying true to the original vision of the founder, along with the timeless design Michael instilled from the beginning, was always at the forefront,” she says.

As one of Napa Valley’s first fine-dining restaurants, Auberge du Soleil quickly became a favorite with locals and topped many “must experience” lists for travelers. Both the restaurant and the resort are industry standard-bearers due to exquisite accommodations, spectacular views of the valley, and passionate, intuitive service.

A roaring fire in an elegant dining room.
Suzanne’s vision for the dining room included elements of warm-blonde wood paired with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow diners to feel immersed in their northern California surroundings.
Fleur de Lis cocktail sits on a bar top.
The resort’s robust bar program will entice even the most loyal oenophile to try something new. This signature Fleur de Lis cocktail, served in a delicate Nick & Nora glass, is an elegant start to the evening.

As important as the local terroir is to the wine itself, the setting plays a role in almost every aspect of Auberge du Soleil. French doors and custom-designed, floor-to-ceiling, steel-framed windows throughout invite a flood of soft, natural light while framing views of the picturesque hills beyond. One of the most noteworthy features of the renovation is the relocation of the bar to the opposite side of the interiors. A re-engineering of the 20-foot-high conical roof was necessary to remove the former floor-to-ceiling cedar tree trunk that was part of the original design. This change opened up the entire space and made room for a bespoke, 9-foot-tall, hand-forged iron chandelier, its corkscrew shape a nod to the wines of the region. French oak flooring is set in a radiant sunburst pattern, while the walls are swept with a pewter-gold hue. The result is a space that seems to impart a soft glow from within.

Bradley Reynolds, managing director of Auberge du Soleil, says, “The redesign of The Restaurant and The Bar is a project that has been in the works for years, involving countless hours of heartfelt care and attention to detail.” He adds that the goal was always “to preserve the welcoming essence of the space while making stylistic enhancements it so richly deserved.”

“This redesign was all about bringing the interiors forward to a more contemporary, fresh, lighter look without losing sight of the place and location.” —Designer Suzanne Tucker

Like bottling a moment in time, Suzanne seems to have captured an almost ethereal glow endemic in this part of Northern California. She kept things light yet grounded in the textiles and finishes selected for the space. Antique bronze metal on the bar façade complements the Cielo quartzite bar top with blue-green and warm-brown veining. Cerused oak wood encircles the setting, lending a warm and relaxed feel that aligns with the region as a whole. Built-in banquettes upholstered in faux bois woven and vegan crocodile-embossed “leather” anchor the interior while ivory lava stone-topped tables create substantial yet visually light dining areas. Guests enjoying these spaces will inherently feel the organically grounded design aesthetic that underscores the entire ethos of the property.

Rolling Napa Valley hills make up a picturesque view from a dining table.
Guests who dine alfresco get a front-row view of the rich agrarian landscape that is Napa Valley.
Green leather chairs fill the dining room.
Bar seating is sumptuous without being stuffy. Suzanne employed the use of a variety of materials that are both grounded and light, allowing the setting to take center stage.

“Our goal with the redesign of Auberge du Soleil was always to maintain its stylish sense of sophistication that is evocative of the South of France while imbuing it with a contemporary spirit,” says Suzanne. “Just as Michael Taylor’s original design vision informed my decisions, The Restaurant and The Bar will appeal to the old guard as well as today’s generation.”

By Christiana Roussel
Photography by The Ingalls