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Sonoma Takes a Gamble On a Vegas-Style Casino Resort

Wine country just got glitzier.

SLIDESHOW

A rendering of the new pool at the revamped Graton Resort & Casino.

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One of the new hotel rooms.

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A rendering of the new Boathouse Asian Eatery.

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Wine country or Vegas? For road-trip coin flippers, there’s now a third way. After a $175 million expansion, Graton Casino in Rohnert Park has transformed itself into a one-stop Vegas-style resort complex, with a new 200-room hotel, a spa and pool, a fitness center, and a big event space opening today. The expansion also scored a new restaurant, Boathouse Asian Eatery, adding a fourth location for Rohnert Park’s popular Boathouse Sushi. 

Designed by the Las Vegas–based Friedmutter Group, the architects behind the Strip’s posh Cosmopolitan Resort, the expansion features splashes of Vegas-style glitz, such as a sculpture-festooned water fountain and a sleek lobby bar. The price tag is glitzy, too ($399 and up on weeknights, $499 and up on weekends). But the overall design’s more Sonoma than Sin City, with plenty of murals of vineyards, muted tones, stonework, and local wood to dial  back the loud ornate light fixtures and splashy art. Resort vice president and general manager Joe Hasson calls it “casual California elegance.” (When the casino opened in 2013, the Chronicle’s John King had a different take, calling it “a big suburban box.”)

The beauty of the resort is, honestly, all the stuff to do that’s not gambling. The new spa and salon offer the usual menu of massages, wet and dry saunas, and mani-pedis. For novelty seekers, the spa also features something called Mindful Waves, a NASA-designed brain relaxation tool that enhances focus and supposedly aids meditation. Or scrap the self-improvement agenda entirely and chill by the pool, where you can reserve TV- and mini-fridge-outfitted cabanas and recline in ca-beds (basically an outdoor bed you can eat and drink in). 

When the gambling bug wears off, head one exit north on 101 to go tasting at Santa Rosa’s under-the-radar wineriesMatanzas Creek’s olive grove, lavender fields, and hilltop deck are an ideal place to recuperate—not a neon light in sight. Picnic on the winery’s oak-shaded deck and sample its roster of sauvignon blancs, merlots, and chardonnays. 

Also close by: Rohnert Park’s Sonoma County Distilling Company. Book a “Grain to Glass” tour to learn how the whiskey is mashed, fermented, distilled, and barrel-aged, all in-house. Cap it off with a tasting of as many as six spirits, then head back to Graton to hit the slots, or try your luck at snagging a poolside ca-bed. 

 


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