Napa Valley vintners keep topping themselves with the lavishness of their new wineries. The latest to open, on Silverado Trail in eastern Napa, displays more than just a hint of Persia. After five years of construction, Darioush has been transformed into a 22,000-square-foot winery and visitor center that evokes the memory of the ancient Persian city of Persepolis.
For years, Napa residents have been anticipating what would become of the vineyard and winery that housed Altamura winery before Darioush Khaledi purchased the property in 1997. Curious visitors were drawn to the mysterious scaffolding and would stop and take pictures. Locals gossiped about the travertine stones that were mined in Iran and cut and polished in Italy before being imported into Napa.
Darioush founder Khaledi was born in the Shiraz region of Iran, where wine grapes grew until the Islamic revolution put an end to the country's wine industry. Khaledi and his wife, Shahpar, immigrated to the United States in 1976. Though he was an engineer in Iran, Khaledi opened a successful chain of supermarkets in California. His interest in wine grew, as did his wine collection, and he began a years-long search for the perfect vineyard and winery.
Now Darioush sits as a temple to both wine and Khaledi's Persian roots. The travertine glows in the sunlight. A row of sixteen 18-foot columns topped with depictions of bulls greets visitors as they walk to the main entrance. The visitor center's design blends ancient Persian decorations with modern touches, including skylights, Italian furniture, contemporary light fixtures and a 20-foot-high indoor wall of rolling water. Outside is a 150-seat amphitheater that eventually will be used for performances and presentations.
Plenty of seating in the visitor center encourages people to sit and relax while they taste -- a big change from a typical tasting bar, where elbow space can be rare. A $10 fee lets you taste the Darioush Napa Valley bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier, all crafted by winemaker Steve Devitt.
Persepolis, after which the winery is modeled, was the capital of the Achaemenian Empire, founded by Darius the Great some 2,500 years ago. Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great burned it down in about 330 B.C., leaving only columns and doorways, which still remain today.
4240 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: (707) 257-2345
Web site: www.darioush.com