By Melissa Wynn

On a beautiful Spring day in early April, my friend Molly and I decided to treat ourselves to a weekend of shopping and adventure in Chico. The drive down Highway 32 was stunning,  framed with  moss covered rocky walls weeping with runoff and bubbling underground springs. Running along side, Deer Creek was rushing with spectacular force after a long awaited, exceptionally wet winter.
Chico greeted us with temperatures in the high seventies under sunny skies and we couldn’t wait to get to the mall. After our shopping spree we wandered up the Esplanade in search of Hotel James, our home away from home for the evening. Hotel James is situated just off the Esplanade, surrounded by eclectic little places to wine and dine; all owned by the James family.
Unlike most hotels, this trendy little five room treasure has no front desk or formal check in procedure. Instead, when you make your reservation you are given a code that will allow you access after the 3:00 check in time on the day of your arrival. We arrived to find the kitchen well stocked with coffees and teas, as well as juices, fresh fruits and a wide variety of cereals, muffins and other snack and breakfast options. Everything you need is on-site or near by, no matter your preference.
As we entered the parking lot we noticed several people wandering into The Lost  Dutchman Taproom. Something cold to drink really sounded good after our long morning trek so we followed the others into the intimate little establishment dedicated to the art of craft beers. Although they don’t brew on site, patrons have up to 20 rotating craft brews, from several local and small craft breweries, to choose from on any given day. During our visit choices ranged from pale ales to dark stouts and reds to ciders. We enjoyed the Schilling Chill Cider, a light and fruity chill cider with a tasty touch of  grapefruit. It was a great pairing with our warm spinach artichoke dip appetizer with perfectly salted chips and topped with pine nuts. The cheerful atmosphere was just right for Sonya and Ryan Finn of Chico as they toasted their visit with parents Alex and Ken Finn of Sonoma at our neighboring table. Family, friends and superior food and libations are what it’s all about at this hidden gem of hospitality all owned by Bob and Gay James and operated with the help their two daughters Jasmine and Efimia.
Visiting with Casey, our server, we learned that Wine Time across the parking lot was their pride and joy serving the tapas style delights of Chef Lisa Sereda paired with a wide variety of choice, local wines. Ambient lighting and beautiful glass mosaic works of art provide excellent atmosphere for the wining and dining experience unique to this evening getaway. Seasonal dishes made with farm fresh local ingredients grace the ever changing menu along with an extensive wine list. This is not your typical restaurant. Musical guests, art events and winemaker tasting nights are a few of the things to make this the place to take some time to really treat yourself. Just sip, nibble and relax.
As if that were not enough the staff tells MVL that a ‘speak easy’ is in the works for those that prefer cocktails over beer and wine. Guests could get used to this.
All rooms at Hotel James have wine themed names and unique decor. Our home for the night was the Pinot. For special occasions request the King Zinfandel that sleeps up to six and offers a private patio with jacuzzi tub. The Merlot room is ADA accessible and an extra cot is available on request for this room. Thick terry cloth robes were great to curl up in after a nice long soak in the deep, spotless bathtub. The T.V. package offers every movie channel you can imagine and we drifted off on puffy pillows to a political comedy on HBO.
It was a shame to check out the next morning but adventure awaited at the Barry Kirshner Wildlife Foundation also featured in this edition. We could have easily spent another day. Hotel James is open 7 days a week and reservations can be made online at or by phone at +1530.894.5743.