SMITH: U.S. News got the 'best' part right

Sharon Rooney of the historic, romantic Gaige House didn't mean to laugh when a caller announced that U.S. News & World Report has named the inn one of the best hotels in America.

It's just that the magazine has grouped and rated the winning hotels by geographic area, and it declared the Gaige House the No. 5 hotel in all of Napa Valley.

Rooney, a director of the firm that manages Gaige House, composed herself and gently explained to the woman from the magazine in D.C. that the inn and its town, Glen Ellen, are firmly located in Sonoma Valley.

The reply: "Either you're in the Napa Valley category or you're not on the list."

So Gaige House, with its centerpiece 1890 Valley of the Moon estate, remains on the Best of Napa Valley hotels list — and in good company.

U.S. News ranks Sonoma's MacArthur Place as the 9th best Napa hotel, Kenwood Inn & Spa as 11th, Boyes Springs' Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa 17th, The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa 18th and, as the No. 20 hotel in Napa Valley, the Vintner's Inn just north of Santa Rosa.

"Little by little," sighed Rooney, of Gaige House, "we will gradually teach everybody that there are two valleys (not to mention Alexander, Dry Creek, Bennett, Russian River, etc) — and two counties."

THE RING LADY has done it again.

Not long ago Liz Beale, a key staffer of State Parks' district office in Duncans Mills, went to heroic lengths to locate the owner of a Tennessee high school ring found on a Sonoma Coast beach.

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