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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Darioush - Wines made by & fit for a King

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The day after Garrett and I tied the knot in Napa at Auberge du Soleil, we woke up, enjoyed a beautiful morning jog through the Rutherford vineyards and a delicious breakfast overlooking Napa Valley and then we did what any wine-loving couple would do in Napa - went wine tasting. The winery we sought out first as newly-wed husband and wife was Darioush Winery, about 15 minutes south of Auberge off the Silverado trail. Darioush Winery is a great place to visit if you’re a fan of Cabernet-based Bordeaux style red wines (though Darioush has other great varietals as well - try the Syrah, Viognier and the Merlot). It’s also a winery that us beautifully constructed and unique in its Middle Eastern style influences.

Though not auspicious as you pass by Darioush Winery on the Silverado Trail, as you pull into the entry drive, the striking architecture is grand and breathtaking - clearly intended to make a statement. The 22,000 square foot winery, the first in America to combine architecture, design and Persian culture, is reminiscent of great noble architecture that once existed evoking Persepolis, the illustrious capital of ancient Persia. Notable design features include 16 monumental 18’ freestanding columns with capital bulls, richly textured travertine-stone cladding surrounding 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) pre-cast moldings, furniture, fireplaces, ironwork, lighting, cellars, and an amphitheatre for performances and events. Also of note is the large torch-like statue directly in front of the winery with flames streaming from the top. Kate, our tasting guide, explained to us, the Owner and Proprietor, Darioush Khaledi, is known as “the King” and when the flames are lit, the King is “in”! In fact, when not in Los Angeles, Darioush and his family’s residence connects directly to the Winery and he is known to pop in to visit with guests and host special private events down in the wine caves or on occasion open up bottles from his private collection of Bordeaux wines to share with his staff.

Though his staff refer to him as King, as they talk openly of how much they love to come to work for their humble and generous boss, it seems genuine and endearing. I can personally attest to this; Darioush popped into the winery during our tasting and made the effort to come over and introduce himself to Garrett and I and even bless our marriage. Where did this winemaker come from? Darioush Khaledi was originally a civil engineer from who grew up in Iran's Shiraz region, (a wine-growing region) until the Islamic revolution. His father made wine as a hobby, and as he grew older, Darioush became passionate about drinking and collecting the wines of Bordeaux. He and his wife (married for over 40 years) immigrated to Los Angeles in the late 1970’s where Daioush founded a chain of local markets which were successful and expanded rapidly. After starting a family, Darioush decided to pursue his passion for wine and moved to Napa where he founded Darioush Winery in 1997.

One of the most important aspects of the Persian culture is hospitality, and the winery is designed to create a welcoming, enjoyable as well as a rich and intriguing environment for gu
ests. While there are several tour and tasting options available, I chose to do unique one-on-one private guided experience to taste the complete line of signature wines - I’d definitely recommend this option if you want an intimate tasting. We were welcomed with a silver dish of pistachios, which is a customary offering in the Persian culture, and these were a truly delicious accompaniment to our wine selection! You can chose to sit inside or outside. The table we sat at was directly above an incredible state of the art light fixture in the cave below, and we could see down into the cave and the lighting through our table. Look for this and other cool design features like this in the Tasting Room - your eyes will never tire of looking around at the beautiful features. If you taste outside, there are six outdoor water features with fountains which comprise just some of the sights and sounds of the experience.

Lush and varied landscaping creates a sequence of continuous gardens, which lead the visitors to the winery. As for the wine production methodology, Darioush, implements labor-intensive, micro-vineyard management and new world state of the art technology to craft his fine wines from its estates located in the appellations of Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder and Oak Knoll. Darioush partners with winemaker Steve Devitt for wine direction and precision and quality are of the utmost importance at the winery. The wines do not disappoint. Tasting notes of a few of my favorites below:

2010 Signature Viognier: Darioush Estate Vineyards, Ashley Vineyard, Oak Knoll - $39
Bright and alluring fragrances of macadamia nut, guava and honeysuckle introduce the distinctive Viognier. A notable crisp green apple acidity pleases the palate while flavors of Asian pear, star fruit and white nectarine harmonize with nuanced finish accented by orange zest and toffee.

2007 Signature Merlot: Darioush Esttate Vineyards in Napa, Oak Knoll, Mt. Veeder - $48
Savory aromas of cinnamon stick, cacao and smoke box open this expressive mountain Merlot. The palate display ripe flavors of black cherry and raspberry and are balanced by hints of toffee and subtle oak. It is texturally complex with an earthy core that balances moderate tannins.

2007 – Signature Cabernet Sauvignon: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Can Franc, 3% Malbec. Darioush Esttate Vineyards in Napa, Oak Knoll, Mt. Veeder - $80
This powerful, yet harmonious wine if defined by aromas of rosewood, dried orange peel, lavender and cola. Gorgeous textured fruits abound- black currant and blueberry mixed with earthy flavors of dusty chocolate, espresso, and sandalwood. The long finish is supported by soft, silky tannins and accented by spice box and tobacco.

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