Well Q&A: Wine & Well-Being at Napa’s Silverado Resort

Last updated November 3, 2023

Meeting Spa Directors is something I really enjoy doing when I visit wellness resorts. I think of them as CEOs—they are responsible for all aspects of a spa’s operation—from hiring and supervising staff to managing the profit and loss.

They truly are the heartbeat of what goes on “behind the curtain”. So, when I had the chance to interview Suzy Bordeaux Johlfs, Spa Director at Silverado Resort, I jumped at it.

It is always interesting to learn about how a spa delivers exemplary treatments and services.

Talking with Suzy was a perfect opportunity to discover how she’s making spa experiences safe and special as we move into a new era of travel.

Suzy and I have the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors of GSN Planet and although we’ve only met through Zoom calls, I look forward to paying her and the Silverado Resort a visit next time I’m in Napa Valley.

Sense of Place at Silverado Resort

Sallie: What do you love most about your life and what would you change if you could wave a magic wand?

Suzy: What I love most is being a mother, a wife and a mentor to my spa team. It sounds a bit “Pollyanna,” but I truly find joy in the people I am around. 

If I could wave a magic wand, my wish would be to fly in my own plane to explore the world’s most beautiful places and experience each culture’s traditional healing practices.

Sallie: As a very experienced Spa Director, what do you consider most important in running a spa? 

Suzy: To me it’s about being a caring, nurturing person to guests and team members. It’s important to create an experience for guests that shows the sense of place and what makes your spa special. 

Sallie: Can you tell us about your passion for sustainability and how you apply this in the spas where you’ve worked?

Suzy: My childhood was spent playing outside and enjoying nature. This grew into a great respect for protecting our precious planet.

Bringing that love of nature into my career, I focused on the sustainable education of my spa team so they understood the “why.” Once you understand that, it’s easy to convert folks.

In my spa at Silverado Resort, we train and plan how to be good planet partners. We encourage our members to bring their own water bottles instead of buying single-use water bottles. 

We diverted 1,600 water bottles per month from landfills through education of what happens when you buy plastic water bottles. To save water we count out treatment supplies so there is no excessive use of linens. 

Once you know that it takes three gallons of water to launder a towel, then it makes sense to use them wisely.   

Sallie: People always ask me what treatments are best at a particular spa. What do you look for in different locations?

Suzy: Each spa is unique to its location and has a “sense of place.” I recommend trying the body treatments as they lend themselves to showcasing the destination: tropical treatments on the islands, mountain-inspired services in the ski resorts and volcanic mud treatments in hot springs areas, for example.

Spa client getting outdoor massage at Silverado Resort and Spa

Sallie: Being in Napa Valley, you are surrounded by vineyards and spectacular cuisine. What are some of your favorite foods and beverages?

Suzy: Food and wine favorites…wow, that’s hard to choose. My favorite celebratory beverage is bubbly – California sparkling wine. It pairs so well with sushi at Morimoto Napa. 

A Napa Valley Cabernet is a must with a great steak served up from our talented Executive Chef Rodrigo Cuadra at the Silverado Resort. 

When visiting wineries, look for those that offer food pairing suggestions so you can learn how to pair wine with your meals at home. The right wine pair will open up the ingredient flavors and complement your dishes.

Sallie: Many of us are wondering what it will be like to have a spa treatment at a resort once we begin traveling again.  Can you tell us what the experience of having a facial will be like? A massage?

Suzy: Our industry takes the safety of our guests very seriously and we have always followed cosmetology and massage regulations which already had high standards for sanitation and disinfection. 

We’ve upped our game with more sanitation and new social distancing procedures. Many spas are using spaces that they may not have before to provide a safe distance for you to relax. 

Additional measures include wearing masks when in service and when we cannot be six feet apart from each other. We have staffed up to ensure that we personally hand you items such as teas and refreshments as self-service is no longer considered sanitary.

The treatment team has prepared by participating in additional safety and comfort training. Prior to the beginning of a service, you may be asked to wash your hands or put on hand sanitizer.

In a facial room, you may get a peek of your technician wearing a face shield so that she is protected from the steam unit. If they do not have face shields, they may choose to use a U-shape plexiglass barrier so it can tuck under your head. Either way, you will feel safe.

The skincare protocols haven’t changed very much, it’s really only the new personal protective equipment that has brought us all a safer approach for our guests and team members.

You may also see more air filtration in the treatment rooms as some spas have chosen to purchase self-standing Hepa units to purify the air in the treatment rooms. 

The payment of your service is moving to touchless systems. Be prepared for a longer prep time prior to your arrival as the spas have to ensure that you are not symptomatic. 

Massages are still the most popular and beneficial services in the spa and you will be asked to wear your mask when you are lying face up.

When you are face down, many spas have figured out how to make you comfortable with the creative use of a pillowcase made into a balloon so you can breathe easily without a mask on.

As time moves on,  so will the virus, but what thankfully will stay will be the spas and healers that make the experience a heartfelt one for our traveling guests.

Sallie: What helps you maintain your well-being? Any favorite tips?

Suzy: Sure! I have five favorite tips that come to mind immediately:
(1) You can’t control very much in life but you can always control your attitude. Be playful and enjoy life. Life is a very long time…choose your attitude wisely.
(2) Make time for yourself. My go-to alone time is spent in my tub with my homemade organic aromatherapy bath balms and a great glass of wine.
(3) If you don’t have time to exercise, you can still stretch every day to increase your circulation and to get those endorphins moving so you feel good.
(4) Getting enough sleep is vital for good health. Sleep is so important for your nervous system. Your body recovers and heals through sleep.
(5) Breathe deeply by inhaling through your nose and out of your mouth. This will help ground yourself. In times of stress, this practice is very valuable.

About Suzy Bordeaux Johlfs

Suzy Bordeaux Johlfs brings thirty years of experience leading spas and wellness programming at world-class resorts. Suzy is currently the Spa Director at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California.

Previously, Suzy was the General Manager of Spa and Fitness at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, a ski resort in Avon, Colorado. She also opened the first luxury LEED Platinum spa in Colorado.  Other assignments have included Director of Spa at Ojai Valley Resort in Ojai, California, and Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Suzy is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and member of the Board for GSN Planet advocating sustainable practices.

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