New hotel opening in Sacramento exurb of Rancho Murieta

This is a look at the unfinished spa at the Murieta Inn & Spa that is under construction and expected to open by the end of 2016.
This is a look at the unfinished spa at the Murieta Inn & Spa that is under construction and expected to open by the end of 2016. hamezcua@sacbee.com

A hotel under construction in Rancho Murieta could soon house people attending horse events at the community’s equestrian center or visiting the adjacent Amador County wine region. The Murieta Inn & Spa is slated to open by the end of the year on Highway 16 next to the gated residential community.

Rising 26 miles southeast of Sacramento, the 83-room facility – styled after a Spanish hacienda – features some midtown players. The spa will be run by Ken Schultz of Sacramento’s Space 07 Salon. Chef Adam Pechal, former co-owner of the now-closed Tuli Bistro, will serve as culinary director of an on-site restaurant called The Gate.

Carol Ward, owner of the nearby Murieta Equestrian Center, is also the principal shareholder in the new hotel. She envisions it as a place where horse people can hang out for short- or long-term stays. The development will include 24 condominium units geared for families attending Murieta Equestrian Center events.

Ward said the Murieta Equestrian Center attracts 150,000 people annually for horse shows and other equestrian events. A lack of nearby hotels forces guests to travel 15 miles from rooms in Rancho Cordova. Nightly rates at the four-story Murieta Inn & Spa are expected to range from $159 to $250 for a luxury room.

“The hotel is about an $18 million project – it’s not a cheap thing to build,” said Ward. “We do about 50 shows a year (at Murieta Equestrian Center), and a lot of clientele will come directly from horse events. We already send a lot of business to other hotels.”

Ward said she and her partners initially scouted for a national hotel chain to manage the Murieta Inn, but will most likely opt to run it independently.

Though Ward is gearing the hotel to host the equestrian community, the Murieta Inn & Spa is also positioned to serve Amador County wine tourists. The hotel is about 17 miles from Plymouth and its Shenandoah Valley, one of Amador County’s key areas for wine tasting.

Amador County has about 700 hotel rooms, but they’re mostly clustered on the southern end of the county near the town of Jackson, said Maureen Funk, executive director of the Amador Council of Tourism. She said rooms closer to the wine country fill up fast on weekends.

“We need more rooms,” she said. “We have some of our best destinations – wine country, the fairgrounds – all within spitting distance of Rancho Murieta.”

Chef Pechal said he hopes to create synergy with nearby wineries at The Gate. The 83-seat restaurant will use ingredients grown on an accompanying 5-acre garden overseen by farm manager Sisko Darling. Pechal said his menu will highlight wines from Amador County.

“There’s a horse community that needs a place to stay, and that’s a starting point,” said Pechal. “But we’re also aiming to be a gateway to Amador County. I’ve been getting wines up there for a while but want to build some new relationships. It’s good for us. It’s good for them. It’s a perfect fit.”

Melissa Haines Lavin, executive director of the Amador Vintners Association, said she hasn’t started talking to the hotel management yet, but expects that they can form partnerships that could include running shuttles between the hotel and area wineries.

“I know a few wineries that would definitely love to work with them,” Lavin said. “It’s the biggest thing to happen to lodging in the area. I like growth of any kind, so I’m excited.”

Greg Vorster, general manager of the Rancho Murieta Association, has also expressed support for the hotel project. The gated community of Rancho Murieta includes 2,319 homes, and growth has been a controversial topic in recent years. Some residents initially questioned if there was enough water available to support the hotel, but the developers have addressed those concerns by expanding a water treatment plant and sewer lines.

“I think the hopes are the hotel will bring more business to the area,” said Vorster. “They’re catering to the equestrian center, and that in turn should bring added revenue to the community.”

At first, Ward said, she hoped Murieta Inn & Spa would open in September, which is already booked with six multi-day events at the Murieta Equestrian Center. She now expects to open in the first week of December, in time for a “Cowboy Christmas” event.

“People are already reaching out for weddings and small conferences,” said Ward. “There are golf tournaments across the street and lots of fun stuff we can do with horses for corporate team building events. We want to make this a fun place to hang out.”

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias