The Napa Valley is home to wineries that not only produce fabulous wines, the wineries themselves are a work of art. Some reflect the history of the state as they are built to reflect the California Missions, others are historic (over a hundred years old) reflecting their founder’s old-world roots while others are extravagant modern innovations. People come to the Napa Valley from all over the world to view the natural beauty of the vineyard and experience the romance of wine and art coming together. In essence, the Napa Valley is a blend of the natural beauty of creation and the artwork of man.
One such synthesis of wine and art is Darioush Winery. It was founded in 1997 by Iranian born, Darioush Khaledi. He grew up in Shiraz, one of Iran’s prominent wine-growing regions and some theorize it may be the origin of the Syrah/Shiraz grape. His father was a hobby wine maker and so he grew up around wine.
Darioush was formerly trained as a civil engineer and had a career in construction. He left Iran in the late 1970’s and emigrated to Southern California where he was faced with the challenge of starting a new career. Darioush and his brother-in-law pooled their resources and purchased a failing grocery store in the city of Los Angeles. Thirty years later they nowoperate 25 stores, with 6 operating under the “Top Valu Market” (KVmartco) name with a traditional supermarket format and they employ over 1,500 people.
When I first visited Darioush Winery, shortly after I returned to the San Francisco Bay Area in the year 2000, the wine was being sold out of a temporary building while the foundation for the winery was being laid. Inside the tasting room were sketches of a Persian Palace that seemed too fantastic to be realized. But the Napa Valley has proven itself to be where winemaking visionaries make their dreams come true.
A few years later Darioush Winery opened the doors to its visitor center, winery and tasting room on August 16, 2004. The building took 5 years to build and it combines materials, castings, and furnishings from the other side of the world. The 22,000 square foot monumental winery was the first in the United States to combine architecture, design and Persian culture.
This Persian palace pays homage to Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 B.C.), located 43 miles northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. The winery was designed by architects Ardeshir and Roshan Nozari of the Ardeshir Nozari and Roshan architectural firm located in Santa Monica California.
As visitors approach the winery they are greeted by 16 monumental 18-foot freestanding columns with capital bulls. Richly textured travertine-stone cladding surrounds the entire building. This yellow stone was quarried near the region of Persepolis and exported to Turkey and Italy for cutting and tumbling before it reached the Silverado Trail in Napa. Additional design features include pre-cast moldings, furniture, fireplaces, ironwork, lighting, and cellars. The winery also features six outdoor water fountains and one indoor rolling wall of water. Surrounding the winery are estate vineyards as well as beautiful gardens.
Darioush estate vineyards consists of ninety-five acres located in the Napa Valley, the Oak Knoll District and Mt. Veeder that are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Viognier.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:
The first pour was the 2011 Signature Chardonnay. The wine is clear golden-straw in color with aromas of apples, pears, peaches and just the faintest hint of butter. On the palate it is crisp with a medium body, it is has a rounded mouth feel and is very well balanced with additional citrus notes on a medium+ length finish, that has just a lingering whiff of butter. The wine sells for $43 a bottle.
The second wine was the 2012 Signature Viognier – Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley. The wine is clear straw yellow in appearance with subtle notes of flowers, tropical fruits, bananas, and melon. On the palate it is crisp with ample acidity, a medium body and a long finish. The wine is very well balanced as some Viogniers from hotter regions can be overly floral and heavy. The wine sells for $41 a bottle.
The next two wines were sampled side-by-side:
The third sample was the 2010 Signature Malbec – Napa Valley. The wine is deep dark purple at the core to violet at the rim. On the nose it has subtle notes of blackberries, blueberries and a hint of smoke. On the palate it is very silky with a medium body, medium acidity but the fruit is very intense and concentrated on entry that delivers a mouth full of blueberry pie. A very delicious wine! The wine sells for $60 a bottle.
The fourth wine was the 2009 Capataz Malbec. The grapes come from 120+ year old vines in Tupungato region of Mendoza, Argentina. In 2006, Darioush partnered with Aria Mehrabi and founded “Capataz” (which translates as “vineyard captain”). The wine is similar in appearance to the Signature Malbec as it is deep dark purple at the core to violet at the rim. On the nose this wine is explosive with notes of blueberries, blackberries and a hint of pepper. However, on the palate it is not quite as intense as the Signature Malbec. So, I preferred the nose of the Capataz but the palate of the Signature Malbec. Given a choice between the two I preferred this one as it sells for $48 a bottle and it provides a better bang for the buck so I brought one home.
The fifth sample was the 2010 Merlot – Napa Valley. The grapes come from Darioush Estate Vineyards in the Napa Valley, Oak Knoll District and Mt. Veeder. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. So, while it is labeled “Merlot” it is really a Merlot dominant Bordeaux-style blend. This wine is clear deep ruby at the core to red at the rim. On the nose this wine delivers aromas of black currants, dark chocolate, cola and subtle notes of sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate it is silky smooth with a hint of fruit sweetness on entry, it is medium bodied with mouth-watering acidity and it has a lingering vanilla finish. If you compare this wine with many other Meritage blends in the valley this wine is competitively priced at $50 a bottle.
The final two wines were sampled side-by-side:
The sixth sample was the 2009 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley. This wine is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc. While it is labeled “Cabernet” it is really a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux-style blend. The grapes are from several Darioush Estate Vineyards in Mt. Veeder, the Oak Knoll District, and the Napa Valley. This wine is clear but very dark, almost black at the core, to purple at the rim. On the nose it has aromas of cassis, blackberries, dark cherries followed by vanilla – a classic Napa Valley profile. On the palate it is velvety with refined tannins and full bodied with ample acidity and a lingering vanilla vanish. This wine sells for $95 a bottle.
The seventh sample was the 2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa Valley. This was a spectacular vintage so if you didn’t cellar any of Darioush’s ’07 Cabs they did it for you, but it is going to cost you! This wine is phenomenal with layered aromas of black currants, beef jerky, sweet pipe tobacco, smoke, maple and a hint of vanilla. On the palate it is silky smooth, full bodied with refined tannins and a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $150 a bottle.
To see additional pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
4240 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558