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For me, some hotels will always be places where I primarily sleep, no matter the purpose of my trip. Doing hotel reviews for properties like this becomes a bit skewed when no matter what the purpose of my trip, I see the same things on the property each time.
The Sheraton Sonoma County Petaluma, in California’s scenic wine country, is one of these properties. I’ve stayed there many times over the years – while in the region for consulting work, when visiting friends in Petaluma, while on a wine tasting weekend, or (as was the case this time) while volunteering with my sorority at a local campus. The common theme between those visits is that I’ve rarely spent much time in the hotel other than to sleep, get ready, and check a few emails before I check out again.
The hotel is located about 30 minutes north of San Francisco directly off Highway 101, adjacent to the Petaluma River and its small marina. The seaward appearance of the exterior is one of the things I’ve consistently found to be a bit incongruous about the property, but one that is easily overlooked. Parking is free in a large open lot in front of the hotel. On weekends, it can fill up quickly leaving late arrivals to park further out in the lot, but there is a covered portico where luggage can be unloaded. Valet services are not offered.
I arrived mid-afternoon on my way up to Rohnert Park and wanted to check in and drop my bags to avoid having to bring them in late that evening from the back of the lot as I knew I would not return until late that evening. The front desk clerk was also dually responsible for the adjacent espresso bar and had to stop to make a beverage for another guest (which also required a trip down the hallway for supplies) so it took almost ten minutes from the time I arrived before I had a room key in hand. They did not provide a separate check in for Starwood Preferred guests. On past stays, I’ve also experienced inefficiencies at the front desk – wine country is not a place for guests who are in a hurry.
I was assigned room 117 on the first floor. I’m not normally a fan of first floor rooms, but I didn’t ask to be switched as I was running late. I was only able to drop my bags inside the door before I needed to hit the road so I did not take photos until late that evening when I returned. As per my usual hotel review policies, the photos are “as I found it” at almost midnight when I returned from my day of volunteer work.
Room temperature was comfortable at that hour, something I find critical for a good night of sleep. I woke up around 7 am (due to several phone calls from the opposite coast) so I went up to the Club Lounge to grab a quick breakfast and then came back down to sleep. I had to employ the “binder clip trick” to get the draperies closed so I could go back to sleep (my “working hours” that day would be 4 pm to 2 am).
I had arranged a late checkout so I was somewhat annoyed that housekeeping knocked on my door three times despite that (as well as the presence of a do-not disturb sign). One knock (and attempted entry) came before 11 am, the second around 1 pm, and the third right before I checked out around 2:30 pm. This is a major hotel pet peeve of mine, particularly when I’m working odd hours and need to sleep during the day.
The bathroom was small but very efficient for getting ready.
The hotel has a small Club Lounge. In all my stays, I’ve only had breakfast there in the mornings so I’m not able to report on what they may offer in the evenings. Breakfast always includes a hot option along with normal continental offerings. My consistent experience with the Club Lounge is that it is usually loud and crowded, not always my favorite thing when I’m tired and not yet caffeinated.
I have used the small workout room in the past (although I did not on this stay) and found it adequate for a quick bit of cardio to burn off calories from the amazing variety of food available in Sonoma County. Photos of the property also boast a swimming pool but I’ve never ventured through the back doors to check it out.
Check out took a few minutes – again I had to wait at the front desk while wedding party guests checked in ahead of me. If I didn’t need a folio right then, I would have just left and sorted it out later, but I did not have that luxury on this particular trip. My folio was accurate and they emailed me a copy for my records as well, a big plus for me.
This is a great property for those who need to be in (or near) Petaluma or wine country visitors with a car (and designated driver) who want a branded-property at a reasonable price. I’ve used it in both circumstances and it continues to be the only option for earning Starpoints in Sonoma County. I will stay at this property when it meets either of those needs.
That said, if one can get away from the need for stay credits, wine country offers a wide range of non-branded properties that may be closer to the action. First time visitors often do not realize just how spread out Sonoma and Napa counties actually are and I’ve heard guests grumbling on past stays about how far this property is from places they hoped to visit. Location is subjective, especially when it comes to Sonoma County, so choose carefully if that is a priority.