Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Darioush Winery Revisited

Darioush Winery is one of those wonderfully different and attractive wineries that is worth visiting even if you don't drink wine.  The buildings and grounds are modeled after Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia 2,500 years ago, but with many interesting modern twists.  You have probably never seen anything like it.  Of course, Darioush also makes some really excellent wines.

Darioush front entrance
Darioush was founded in 1997 by Darioush Khaledi who came to the U.S. in the late 1970s from the Shiraz region of Iran where his father had made wine as a hobby.  A winery called Altamura had previously been on the same estate. The Darioush visitors center opened to the public in August of 2004 after five years had been spent gathering exotic material and building the lavish 22,000 square foot winery modeled after Persepolis, the great capital of ancient Persia  (Achaemenid Empire) from 550 to 350 BC. Persepolis

One of the Darioush fountains and ponds

The architects, Ardeshir and Roshan Nozari, combined modern lines with historical references.  It has 16 freestanding 18 feet high columns outside the entrance of the building. Yellow travertine stone was quarried from near Persepolis and cut in Turkey and Italy before being sent to Napa to cover the entire building. Other attractions include a 250 seat amphitheatre for events and performances, six different fountains, a rolling wall of water in the tasting room and some lovely gardens.  Even the restrooms are amazing.

Statues inside Darioush tasting room

Darioush is located on the Silverado Trail in Napa and is very easy to identify by its unique architecture. It is open to the public for tastings without an appointment and ample parking is provided.  Steve Devitt is their winemaker. Our last visit to Darioush was in March of 2011 so we were long overdue for a revisit.

Darioush vineyard

Last time we visited we really liked all the Darioush wines but were especially fond of the Darioush 2008 Shiraz and the Darioush 2007 Merlot.  Unfortunately neither of those varietals were available for tasting this time, but if you have an opportunity to try their Merlot or Shiraz (Sirah), I highly recommend you do. I made a note during our last visit that Darioush wines seemed to lean toward being rather full bodied, lush and ripe.  I also thought of them more in terms of their reds than whites, but this visit demonstrated to me that they make equally delicious white wines. Service was helpful and friendly both times we visited.  We extend our thanks this time to our host, Alex.  He is probably the same Alex at Darioush whom we thanked two and a half years ago, but I always remember wines more distinctly than faces.

Darioush main building

Our tasting began with the Darioush 2012 Signature Sauvignon Blanc at $45. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes came from Sage Vineyard up on Mount Veeder and were blended with 5% Semillon to add some roundness.  The wine was aged for six months sur lies in French oak with 20% of the oak being new oak.  A mere 380 cases were produced.  It had a very good aroma of pear, melon and citrus with some minerality. On the palate I got melon, pear, cantaloupe, tropical fruits and citrus with some minerality and a long finish.  It had a lot of lush ripe fresh fruit, balanced with good acidity to make a Sauvignon Blanc that was very pleasant and perfectly enjoyable by itself although it will pair well with many dishes. We both really liked this Sauvignon Blanc.

Darioush tasting bar

The second pour was the Darioush 2012 Signature Viognier at $41. It was whole cluster pressed and saw 7 months of sur lie aging with 85% of it in neutral oak, 10% in stainless steel and 5% in Acacia barrels.  2712 cases were produced.  Not much Viognier is grown in Napa Valley.  Most in California seems to be grown in the Central Valley and Paso Robles.  Our host, Alex, informed us that there are only about 108 acres of Viognier planted in all of Napa Valley. This one is a real gem.  It had plenty of that great Viognier floral aroma.  I got honeysuckle, plumeria, ginger, orange blossoms, melon and a host of other floral notes.  You could almost dab some on your neck and use it as a perfume. On the palate it had a lot of lush, intense fruit, multi layered and beautifully balanced.  I got juicy ripe white peach, ripe cantaloupe, apricot, nectarine, (both "ripe" of course) and some honey with a long, sumptuous finish.  I cannot recall tasting a Napa Valley Viognier I have liked better, and we had to purchase some. 

Darioush garden with pomegranit

Our third pour was the Darioush 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir at $65.  This is the seventh vintage for this Pinot.  I was unable to locate any production notes for the 2011, but it obviously has seen some French oak. It had a good pronounced cherry and vanilla aroma.  On the palate I got black cherry, vanilla, some blueberry and cinnamon with well integrated tannins and a long, lingering finish that coats the mouth. I got more dark fruit than red and no strawberry. This is not one of those delicate, light and fruity style Pinots that emphasizes freshness over substance and structure.  I really enjoyed it. This Pinot is in such high demand that you will have to obtain it at the winery because Darioush wine club members purchase most of it.

Darioush fountains and other buildings

Fourth in line was the Darioush 2011 Duel at $55.  I could not locate production notes on the 2011, but Darioush describes their Duel as a "unique blend combines the deeply satisfying fruit and earthy minerality of Cabernet Sauvignon with the zesty spice and fresh berry fruits inherently found in Darioush Shiraz."  Our host informed us that it is 70% Syrah (Shiraz) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was a lovely deep purple in color.  Palate wise I got black cherry, blackberry, chocolate, coffee and spice with chewy tannins and a moderate plus length finish.  It's a good, big bodied wine but somehow the two varietals did not quite come together for me.  Indeed, for me it was more like a "duel" than a "dual" and I wondered aloud if that is why they came up with the name.  Try it for something different and see what you think. If you find out why it is called Duel instead of Dual, please email me. Until then I'll have to dispel fantasies of Cab and Syrah meeting for a shootout at high noon.  Who will win?  Cab is slow to ripen  but might be fast on the draw.

Darioush garden

The fifth pour was the Darioush 2010 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon at $95.  This 2010 was a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. It was a deep crimson purple, almost opaque with intense aromas of black currants, forest floor, cedar, chocolate and coffee.  I got deep rich, ripe black fruit on the palate, mostly black currant, blackberry, and black cherry along with chocolate, coffee, vanilla, mushroom and lavender.  This is a big, bold, rich, highly structured Cab that is very well balanced but still quite young.  Finish was moderate plus.  You can drink this Cab now, but it really should be cellared to allow it to develop to its full potential. BTW, this might be their Signature Cab but it is not their flagship Cab.  Their "crown jewel" is the Darioush II Cabernet Sauvignon at $225 a bottle. Perhaps we will be offered a taste at our third visit.

Darioush pillars

This concluded the Signature Flight, but we couldn't leave without trying the Darioush 2010 Captaz Malbec at $48.  Darioush makes this Malbec in Argentina from vines in the Andes that are at 3,800 feet.  My friend had recently been to Argentina and couldn't resist tasting it.  Darioush also makes a Signature Malbec that is from Napa Valley grapes, but we did not try that one. An intense dark purple in color, this Captaz Malbec had a lot of blackberry with some mushroom on the nose.  On the palate it was lush black cherry and blueberry with and some spice.  The balance was perfect, with well integrated tannins and a moderate plus finish.  Both of us really liked this Malbec and couldn't resist purchasing some.  Now I'm eager to try the Darioush Malbec from Napa Valley grapes, but that might have to wait until our next visit.  If you love Malbecs, you know where to visit.

Darioush vineyard

Darioush is a winery you will want to visit for both the excellent wines and the exotic setting.  Your tasting will come with pistachios which are addicting, but you have been forewarned. Dressing in your own ancient Persian clothing is entirely optional but it is mandatory that you visit the upscale restrooms, especially if one of the wineries down the street with their porta potty and great desert wine is your next stop.  Darioush is the only winery I have ever visited where I had to take a photo of the men's room and the photo doesn't do it justice. It really is a unique place.

Darioush Men's Room

Darioush Winery
4240 Silverado Trail
Napa, California 94558
Phone: 707-257-2345
Date of revisit: October 14, 2013

Their website indicates that Darioush "is open to the public for tasting from 10:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. daily excluding major holidays. Tours are available by appointment only."

Darioush currently offers three regular tasting options.  The Signature Flight at $40 includes five of their wines. The Library Offering at $20 includes the Darioush 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  2007 was an exceptionally good year for Napa Valley Cabs and their 2007 was rated 94 by Wine Spectator. The Amuse Flight is $18 and includes the Sauvignon Blanc and Capataz Malbec. They are open to the public without appointment for these tastings.

By prior appointment they also offer "Unique Experiences": which consists of three options.  "By Invitation Only" ($150) allows you to visit Darioush Khaledi's private cellar and taste exclusive wines accompanied by tastings created by their private chef.  "Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses" ($75) offers a wine and cheese pairing.  And the "Host Guided Portfolio Tasting" which is only $40 provides tastings of their Signature wines.  Darioush is in the Napa Neighbor Program and they also waive one tasting fee for each three bottles of wine purchased.  Times and prices might change, so please call Darioush or visit their website for current prices, times and information about special tours and options. Visiting Darioush

Darioush statue

Darioush tasting bar

Darioush front entry gate

Darioush art work

The Pillars of Darioush

Darioush grapes

Darioush gift shop

Darioush outdoor tasting table

Darioush indoor modern tasting table
Darioush skylight

Darioush modern indoor tasting table

Darioush ampitheater

Darioush vineyard

Water wall in tasting room

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