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Spending the Night in Lillie Langtry's House at Guenoc Winery in California

Updated on October 14, 2017
Peggy W profile image

California is a state full of natural wonders including many state & national parks. See sites in San Francisco & many other areas visited.

Beautiful home once owned by Lillie Langtry
Beautiful home once owned by Lillie Langtry | Source

Sleeping in Lillie Langtry's Bed

One very fond memory of one of our California wine country trips in late April of 1991 originated here at Lillie Langtry's house which is now used as a guest house for Guenoc Winery.

After flying from Houston to San Francisco, we rented a car and drove to the winery which is located at the northern part of the Napa Valley stretching into Lake County.

It was prearranged that we would be guests of the owners of Guenoc Winery. It just so happened that we were the sole occupants of the guest house that night. It is a sprawling and beautiful old Victorian house and we had our pick of the bedrooms.

Naturally we chose to stay in Lillie's old room.

Plaque attached to the house - Lillie Langtry's house
Plaque attached to the house - Lillie Langtry's house | Source

Who Was Lillie Langtry?

Suffice it to briefly say that she was a famous stage actress well known to European and American theater-goers in the late 19th and early 20th century as well as being known as an International beauty. She was also "favored" by British royalty and was beloved by many men in her life.

Her nickname was the "Jersey Lily."

In 1888 she purchased 4,200 acres of land in the Guenoc Valley and decided to make wine. She actually brought a French winemaker from Bordeaux by the name of Henri Descelles to accomplish that goal.

Her likeness was placed on the labels and Guenoc wines today still sport that image of her.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Downstairs parlor in the Langtry HouseThis oak tree on the property is said to be one of the oldest of its kind in California. - Lillie Langtry's house / now part of Guenoc Winery
Downstairs parlor in the Langtry House
Downstairs parlor in the Langtry House | Source
This oak tree on the property is said to be one of the oldest of its kind in California. - Lillie Langtry's house / now part of Guenoc Winery
This oak tree on the property is said to be one of the oldest of its kind in California. - Lillie Langtry's house / now part of Guenoc Winery | Source

Exploring Lillie's House

The grounds surrounding this expansive old Victorian house are beautiful. Rolling hills and fields of orange blooming poppies painted our view wherever we looked.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wonderful wrap around porch and balcony on Lillie's house - Lillie Langtry's houseOne view looking out from the house - Lillie Langtry's houseThe California poppies were in full bloom! - Lillie Langtry's house
Wonderful wrap around porch and balcony on Lillie's house - Lillie Langtry's house
Wonderful wrap around porch and balcony on Lillie's house - Lillie Langtry's house | Source
One view looking out from the house - Lillie Langtry's house
One view looking out from the house - Lillie Langtry's house | Source
The California poppies were in full bloom! - Lillie Langtry's house
The California poppies were in full bloom! - Lillie Langtry's house | Source

After we were let into the house and had time to look around, we decided that we wanted to sleep in Lillie Langtry's bedroom. How many people can say that? We thought that it would be fun.

Supposedly her favorite color was yellow and her bedroom was certainly ablaze with variations of that hue. Some old wallpaper in the closet might have actually been what she had personally selected.

Most of the furnishings in the house are no longer original to what Lillie Langtry had owned with the exception of a beautiful old gramophone which did belong to her.

My husband standing next to Lillie Langtry's gramophone.
My husband standing next to Lillie Langtry's gramophone. | Source

The furniture in the house replicates what would have been the style to suit the period of the late 1880s.

The downstairs parlor was comfortable and over the fireplace was a portrait of Lillie.

In one corner of the dining room was the wooden gramophone that was originally hers.

Upstairs there was a parlor separating her room from Freddie Gebhardt's room. He was one of her male friends who also owned property adjacent to hers.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Upstairs parlor between Lillie's and Freddie's bedrooms.Downstair's bedroom in the Langtry house
Upstairs parlor between Lillie's and Freddie's bedrooms.
Upstairs parlor between Lillie's and Freddie's bedrooms. | Source
Downstair's bedroom in the Langtry house
Downstair's bedroom in the Langtry house | Source

Our Evening

Having driven through the little town while getting to our specially arranged lodging for the night, we spotted a couple of restaurants and thought that we would probably pick one of them in which to have supper that evening when we were surprised by a telephone call.

Karen Melander-Magoon invited us to join her for a tour of the vineyards. She picked us up and began to show us some of the vineyards nearby.

Some of the land on the Guenoc estate
Some of the land on the Guenoc estate | Source

Karen brought some Guenoc wines to taste as we looked down upon the land where the grapes were grown. This was such a wonderful treat and totally unexpected. We knew that a tour of the winery was arranged for the next day.

We were getting along so well that instead of inviting us to join her at one of those restaurants in town as she had planned to do, she instead invited us to continue the evening in her home on the estate. Of course we said "yes!"

We learned that the Magoon family had been huge landholders in Hawaii and had descended from Hawaiian royalty and Chinese nobility. 23 acres of land that was needed for the University of Hawaii was converted into 23,000 acres of California property.

Most of the land is utilized for ranching but a portion was already started by Lillie Langtry as a vineyard, and the Magoon family decided to pursue an expansion of that and have obviously done so successfully.

Planted vineyard looking toward the Guenoc Winery
Planted vineyard looking toward the Guenoc Winery | Source

Karen who is Orville Magoon's wife takes an active part in the winery. She handles public relations and marketing for the winery but also had an interesting career prior to that. She sang opera for twenty years in Austria and Germany.

Orville was on business in Hawaii so we did not get to meet him. But Karen pulled out all the stops! She thawed some wild boar out of her freezer and made a delicious lasagna along with a wonderful fresh salad picked from her garden filled with fragrant herbs all of which she grows. Homemade brownies completed the meal.

Wild boar roam the estate. Hunting and fishing is an added attraction for those fortunate enough to be invited by the Magoons as guests.

Naturally it goes without saying that we also enjoyed an assortment of Guenoc wines to accompany that meal prepared by Karen. That night we sampled the following Guenoc wines:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay, Regular and Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Regular and Reserve
  • and Zinfandel.

A very special treat was her singing!

Karen taught us "The Wine Song" that she had created and after dinner I joined her in some songs while she played her baby grand piano. It turned out to be a very late night but one that will happily remain in our memory banks forever!

Karen's cat Falina sitting atop her baby grand piano.
Karen's cat Falina sitting atop her baby grand piano. | Source

The Next Day

We met Karen the next day after a little sleep following our wonderfully entertaining night at her home.

At the winery were two friends of Orville's who had come primarily to do some fishing on the grounds of the estate. Karen gave the four of us a full tour of the winery and the original Langtry vineyards.

The wisteria was in full bloom at the Guenoc Winery.
The wisteria was in full bloom at the Guenoc Winery. | Source

We were driven in a 4 wheel drive vehicle over very bumpy terrain. Lillie would have been driven over the same roads in a stagecoach! It would have been even more jostling for her since stagecoaches did not have rubber wheels as we had.

Near the top of the original Langtry winery land, now Guenoc Winery.
Near the top of the original Langtry winery land, now Guenoc Winery. | Source

We saw original winery ruins. We also passed an Indian burial mound which is being protected from any kind of development on the way up to the top of the old winery and vineyards.

Ruins of the Lillie Langtry winery
Ruins of the Lillie Langtry winery | Source

What can I say about this visit?

Superlatives cannot quite capture the fun and memories that were embedded into this experience. We were to move on to other sights and some more vacation fun but the Lillie Langtry House and Guenoc Winery will remain a part of us always especially because of our most generous and vivacious hostess, Karen.

The Langtry Barn
The Langtry Barn | Source

Location of Guenoc Winery in California

A markerGuenoc Winery -
21000 Butts Canyon Rd, Middletown, CA 95461, USA
get directions

If you enjoy visiting the wine country in California, think of visiting Guenoc Winery whether or not you get to spend the night in Lillie Langtry's bed. The scenery is beautiful as hopefully some of my pictures will have shown.

Of one thing I am certain. You will love the hospitality shown by the nice folks at Guenoc Winery while you sample their luscious wines.

Final view of the winery and surrounding area as we took our leave from Guenoc Winery.
Final view of the winery and surrounding area as we took our leave from Guenoc Winery. | Source

Langtry Estate & Vineyards winemaker Eric Stine doing manual punch downs of Petit Verdot for 2010 harvest.

Do you like visiting wineries?

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Lily Langtry portrait by Watts

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Suzanne,

      California certainly is a beautiful state! In what part of California did you live? I think that more people would be tempted to live there except for the high real estate prices. Nice that you enjoyed the parks and historical places of interest while you were living there. Thanks for your comment + votes.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

      What an interesting and enjoyable experience! I lived in CA for almost 20 years and loved it. There are so many parks and historical places of interest to visit there for free or for very low cost, and the weather is so temperate. Perhaps I will return one of these days!

      Voted up and interesting! :)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      That was a special treat indeed to be able to stay in Lillie Langtry's home which is now a part of the Guenoc Winery estate. My husband and I have had some fabulous trips out to the California wine country. It is a great destination for those who enjoy tasting different wines...but also for the beauty of the place. Never did get to take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. That is still on my bucket list. Thanks for your votes + the share.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      Gorgeous photos and videos as always! Your visit must have been so exciting and to have slept in the same bed as Lillie Langtry besides! I'm sure a lot of people would love to be able to say they have done that. A wonderful recollection of your trip that will be helpful to people who are planning a trip to California's wine country. Voted up, interesting, and beautiful. Will share!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Vinaya,

      My husband and I have been fortunate enough to visit some amazing wineries in California and elsewhere, including some here in Texas. He has even gotten to see some wonderful ones in Italy. I have used his photos and have written about some of those experiences as well. Perhaps someday you will get to visit one or more. Getting to see Guenoc winery in the manner that we did was truly special! Thanks for your comment.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Peggy,

      I have never been to a vineyard or winery. Perhaps, I should. Your pictures and story both are amazing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi rajan jolly,

      So nice to hear that I captured the essence of visiting Lillie Langtry's house as well as Guenoc Winery with photos to make you feel as though you had been there yourself. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Hi Peggy. This is an enchanting read with awesome pictures ; almost like visiting Lily Langtry's house and winery myself.

      Up & beaatiful.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gail,

      We certainly did feel very special on that trip to Guenoc Winery and were treated royally. Lilly Langtree's house is amazing & as you noted, the scenery is spectacular. Thanks for your comment, votes and the share.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alastar,

      Yes, Lillie Langtry was certainly a talented and interesting lady. It was a wonderful treat to be able to be guests of Guenoc Winery and actually spend the night not only in her home...but in her bed. Something we will forever remember! Thanks for your comment and the share.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Wow! Sounds like you and your husband received VIP treatment and I felt like I was right there with you on your awesome stay at Lillie Langtree's house.

      Her yellow bedroom looked so bright and cheery and the grounds and surrounding land is magnificent.

      Voted this hub up across the board and am sharing it.

      This is definitely my idea of a fun and exciting vacation.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh my gosh Peggy but is this a hub after me own heart. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about the trip, the history and pictures! And the vid watched too. Read a condensed story in Readers Digest about the Jersey Lily 20 years ago so all here is such a treat. She was a beautiful and talented woman who lived a remarkable life. Count on this being shared again!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Billy,

      Visiting Guenoc and getting to stay in Lillie Langtry's house was quite a treat on one of our past wine trips to California. Glad that you enjoyed getting to see it via this hub.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Peggy thanks for more insight on your California wine trips - tons of information and ideas for planning a week or two visiting the vineyards.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Denise,

      Yes...staying at the home of what used to belong to Lillie Langtry ( now Guenoc Winery ) was a treat indeed. Just one of the exceptional experiences we have had in California. Thanks for the visit and comment.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      OMG How fun that must have been. What a beautiful home and land. I enjoyed reading your hub. Filled with lots of info and well written. Thanks for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Phyllis Doyle,

      Very happy to hear that you enjoyed this hub about Guenoc Winery in California and our experience of spending the night in Lillie Langtry's bed. That is a memorable experience we will never forget! Thanks for the comment and adding that bit about Lillie Langtry also being honored in Virginia City.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 7 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I was hopping around again and came across this hub about Lillie Langtry. Great hub! I often go to Virginia City in the summer months and Lillie Langtry is one of the historical figures honored there. I love reading about her and her life. Thanks for sharing such wonderful pictures of her home.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello loveroflife,

      No, Lillie Langtry never visited the town named after her by Judge Roy Bean nor did they ever officially meet. He was enamored with her from afar. Thanks for the interesting question / comment.

    • profile image

      loveroflife 8 years ago

      Is it true that Langtry, a little town in far West Texas, was named for Lillie? If so, did she ever visit there?

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Greetings Lisa Deehan,

      Then you have seen things and probably know things about her that I do not. Spending the night in Lillie Langtry's bed at Guenoc Winery was a once in a lifetime treat for my husband and me. Getting to learn about her investment and way of life on this side of the ocean was fun. The vineyards that she started are still in existence today.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Lisa Deehan 8 years ago

      I know about lillie Langtry i learn about over in the Jersey island were she came from. i have been there a few times and i love it so.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Yes, she certainly had an interesting and varied life! Thanks for commenting.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I knew LL visited America after her affair with Bertie ended, but had no idea she bought a vineyard, let alone lived there. How interesting! The things you learn here at Hubpages!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Teresa, Civilized yes......and also fun!

      Hello LondonGirl, Don't know about being "hot stuff" but it certainly was a privilege to be able to experience that part of our wine country trip in that special way. Also learned more about Lillie Langtry than I had previously known.

      Iphigenia hopes that it "was also romantic..." Blush! Hope that is enough of an answer! Ha!

    • profile image

      Iphigenia 9 years ago

      Really interesting - sounds like you had a great trip. I hope that it was also romantic ...

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I can't help feeling that you'd have to be pretty hot stuff to sleep in that bed, or the bed would look down on you (-:

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      How interesting -- sounds like a very civilized way to spend your time!

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