Hailed by Town & Country as “New York’s Next Great Escape” last May, when the property first began taking reservations, Wildflower Farms in Gardiner welcomed its first guests last weekend. The accommodation is the latest addition to the Auberge Resort Collection with 65 freestanding cottages, cabins, and suites on a 140-acre property at the foot of the Gunks offering a deliciously deluxe take on local culture.
A contentious seven-year permitting process finally wrapped up in January of 2021, when Gardiner’s planning board gave the go-ahead. Property owners hung in there, took the feedback of the neighbors into account, watched regional hospitality trends, and succeeded in transforming what had been a dairy farm turned tree farm into a resort that considerably transcends the original vision of glampsites. With a world-class restaurant and spa on lovingly cultivated grounds, large rooms with heated floors and fully custom furnishings, and that hard-won location in one of the planet’s great garden spots, Wildflower Farms aspires to kick your upstate weekend up a notch or three.
“Fifteen years ago, my wife and I were living in New York City and came to the Hudson Valley for the first time,” says owner and managing partner Phillip Rapoport. They fell in love with Gardiner and purchased a home in the area. “Our time spent in the Hudson Valley is ultimately what inspired us to create a place where others could escape the city for nature and a greater sense of wellbeing,” Rapoport adds. “Several years later, we purchased the site for Wildflower Farms and embarked on a seven-year journey to create something that has never existed in the destination.”
The design, from architects Electric Bowery and interior specialists Ward and Gray, is full of natural light and warm wood. The main buildings are connected asymmetrical barn shapes housing public spaces including the restaurant, Clay, which will serve rustic New American fare “inspired by the concept of ‘wild comfort.” In-room amenities include a selection of mini-bar offerings featuring better-for-you, socially conscious, and locally curated snack selections by Rachel Krupa’s New York City-based The Goods Mart; custom cedarwood soaps from SAIPUA that pair beautifully with towels from Hudson-based MINNA; and a collection of large-format art books featuring naturalistic and culinary gardens, curated in partnership with publisher Phaidon.
Clay will feature “wild comfort” food, epicurean feasting described on the website as “a love letter to the seasons and stories of the Hudson Valley” with three different dining experiences designed to “offer an exploration of New American cuisine as told through global techniques and flavors.” Ingredients are sourced from Wildflower’s own farm and trusted local growers; the wine list spotlights farmers and vintners from everywhere, while the cocktail program sources infusions and tinctures straight from the garden.
The onsite farm, besides providing bounty for the menu, offers guests a chance to get their hands in the dirt, gather eggs, or feed the chickens and goats. There are classes in Botanical Baking and Botanical Mixology as well as tours of the neighboring Tuthilltown Distillery. Other experiences include hiking, foraging, and foliage tours on electric CAKE dirt bikes. The Thistle spa, a 9,000-square-foot wellness facility with six treatment rooms, outdoor hot tubs, and an indoor saltwater pool, incorporates hyperlocal apothecary products and immersive outdoor experiences in a process described as “gentle rewilding.”
“Auberge Resorts Collection’s ethos is rooted in providing guests with a location-specific experience full of purpose and community,” says general manager Manolo Sorenson. “The experience program at Wildflower Farms is a true labor of love and commitment to lifting up the Hudson Valley’s artists, entrepreneurs, culinarians, farmers, purveyors, and more. From CAKE electric bikes to Cultivate Apothecary, the entire team has had a hand in working with friends and partners that help showcase the best of the destination.”
Auberge was hand-picked by the property owners as their concept evolved. “We consulted with several luxury brands and operators, but the selection of Auberge Resorts Collection was driven by their operation of aspirational properties of similar scale and experienced team,” says co-owner Kristin Soong Rapoport. “We partnered with them as we were nearing the end of the permitting process and entering the interior design phase.”
Opening weekend at the end of September was reported to be a rousing success and the $1,000-a-night accommodations are full up through October. Locals, though, are welcome to have a meal at Clay and a drink at the upholstered bar, hear music at the Green Room, or reach out to the reservations team to sign up for a cooking class at the Maplehouse education center or a restorative treatment at Thistle.
“Unforgettable,” say the early reviews, “classy.’ The details of Wildflower Farm are a case study in elevating the genuine to its luxurious best. Gardiner’s careful planners can take pride in having helped owners shape what is on track to become a storied Hudson Valley destination.