The Virtuoso Life We Talk To: Hotelier Samuel Leizorek

We Talk To: Hotelier Samuel Leizorek

Why You Should Visit Napa Valley Now.
A room with a view at Las Alcobas Napa Valley.
A room with a view at Las Alcobas Napa Valley.

In a travel world where wellness is all the rage, I believe that people want to have their green juice, and eat their pasta too. On a recent visit to the new Las Alcobas Napa Valley, and after dining at its restaurant, Acacia House, I thought, “This is how people want to eat today.” 
Exhibit A: The breakfast menu offers carrot and vegetable juices (and a very trendy turmeric shot), but you could also order a Bellini and your whole-milk cappuccino. Your entree might be ten-grain porridge, but you could also indulge in croissant milk toast or chilaquiles. At dinner, fruits, vegetables, and spices creatively enliven every dish – rigatoni with kale pesto; Cornish game hen with roasted grapes, turnips, and pancetta; roasted carrots with cumin scented grains.

Of course, this being California, the produce tasted a hundred times fresher than what you find in most of the country – or so it seemed to me.

Colorful vegetables at Acacia House.
Colorful vegetables at Acacia House.
Photo by Annie Fitzsimmons

Co-owned by hotelier Samuel Leizorek, the property has quickly become a Napa Valley mainstay in less than a year, according to several locals who frequent its restaurant. It’s just a ten-minute walk from downtown Saint Helena, which means you can eat a famous English muffin at Model Bakery, get a burger at the original Gott’s Roadside, or shop in one of the many boutiques without setting foot in a car. Unlike most properties in the valley, you can also walk to many wineries.
“Saint Helena is one of the oldest communities in the valley,” Leizorek says. “So there is a charming, historical element with art galleries, shops, and restaurants.”
I visited shortly after fires ravaged the region last November. I was pleased to discover that most of Napa Valley was unscathed and saw no signs of fire destruction in towns along its main thoroughfare Route 29, like Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford. Driving between Napa to Sonoma, you’ll see major fire damage and burned neighborhoods in areas, but, like many regions that suffer natural disasters, from a tourism perspective the area has bounced back quickly and is eager to welcome visitors. 

I recently spoke to Leizorek about his new property, and why he loves being a hotelier.

Acacia House at Las Alcobas Napa Valley.
Acacia House at Las Alcobas Napa Valley.

Las Alcobas Napa Valley is your second hotel, after launching the acclaimed Las Alcobas Mexico City in 2010. What do you love most about it? 

The views – Those facing west have the most glorious sunsets, while the east-facing views showcase the whole valley and mountains.

Walking distance from Saint Helena – You can drink in wine country and walk. You’re secluded in a resort, but then you’re walking distance from any activity you want.

The design – The landscaping, architecture, and design is a thoughtful composition. The whole feeling is a very mellow note of detail and depth. We looked at every color and texture. It’s a complex puzzle and every piece has to come together.

The luxurious comfort – There’s an artful approach to the living quarters. It envelops you and is very warm. We designed beautiful terraces with fire pits. The beds are super comfortable and lush. We hand-selected all of the stones in the bathrooms, which have Naturopathica amenities. You also have a walk-in closet and powder room.

What makes a hotel iconic?
Ultimately, they maintain a space that becomes a social hub in time. These hubs need to be cross-generational and comfortable for every single age group. In Acacia House, we’ve created that with the wrap-around porch.
How did you get started in this business?
I’m a dreamer and a very passionate individual. From an early age, I loved staying in hotels and had a romance with them. Back then, boutique hotels didn’t really exist. And grand dames – though they were celebration hotels – had a stuffiness about them.
Hotels are emotional experiences, and you need to be emotional to a certain degree to work in them. My dad was a pragmatic man and savvy businessperson, so on his suggestion, I earned a business degree first and then got my masters in hospitality management at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
In the late 90s, the rules were rewritten in the industry. Boutique hotels came on the market. Hotels became more artistic, but also more approachable. I started working in NYC in the hotel industry before the opportunity came to build Las Alcobas Mexico City, in a neighborhood where I was born ten blocks away.
Any advice for those who want to work in the hotel industry?
I think I’m a good hotelier because I’m not afraid of working the restaurant, picking up dirty dishes, and throwing out the trash. If chairs are not aligned, I’ll align them. Just enjoy the moment, work, do rotations, do the front desk, do the overnight shifts – that’s where you actually learn. You’ll have more tools for the future.
I feel like there’s very little pride in ownership today. I know my furniture maker, the guy who makes our sheets and towels, everyone that I can. I value relationships in a way that is from deep within. I truly enjoy it; there’s a thin line between working and playing.
What are your travel rituals?
I meditate for about 20 minutes on the plane, and put my eye mask on. I always bring more books than I read, plus I love to read The Economist.

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