A wine tasting in Napa needs two things to be successful much like a wine tasting in any winery region: great wine paired with a great wine tasting room experience. If you step into a tasting room only to be ignored as it’s too crowded at the bar you are left to your own devices. If there is nothing to look at while you wait other than the winery swag or framed maps, or no seating, you either wait it out or step out…and into another more welcoming winery down the road. But the crowd could have been there because the wine is good. What a waste.
This week I will take wine 101ers on a virtual tour of a Napa winery I visited recently that had both the great wine and an awesome tasting room (and tour) experience: Darioush.
Everyone is “engaged” at Darioush winery, both avid wine tasters and their guests, with the experience. As you enter the winery you are greeted by a concierge at a desk – much like a hostess – where you can check in for your prearranged tasting experience “tableside” or just step up to the large “barside” for your tasting. If you prefer to meander a bit, you can peruse the wine bottles, Eastern-inspired art, books and the working winery before settling in for a tasting. (There are several tasting experiences described here: http://www.darioush.com/be-our-guest)
During my visit I learned that the Darioush wine experience is all about the hospitality, and no reservations are needed unless you want the “elevated experience.” Most clients that are returning visitors may have started in the bar, then come back for wine and cheese pairings or more.
The word “Tarof” was used often by out hosts, in the Persian culture it means the idea of making someone comfortable in your home.
Part of a winery experience is the history that is verbally shared during a tasting. The time taken by your winery representative in telling the tale, and in their pride for their winery, should be palpable. Here’s what was shared during our tasting:
After arriving in the United States, and as an entrepreneur at heart, Darioush was successful in achieving the American Dream through a series of service-first business models. However, his passion for fine wine never waned, and in 1997 he finally had the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of opening a winery. His goal: to craft fine wines from the relatively cooler microclimates of southern Napa Valley, to invite and entertain guests and enthusiasts from all over the globe, and as you noted – to share the beautiful and culturally rich aspects of his Persian heritage with the world.
We had started our tasting in the tasting room, seated over a shiny glass table and surrounded by art. At one point we were moved to a more private area reserved for members. Here guests sat in a room that looked more like a den: with a backgammon board, a fireplace, books and plenty of comfy seating.
Led down to the barrel room we also saw Darioush’s own private cellar, with many large format Napa wines and other collectible bottles. There were two private dining rooms for member tastings. One reminded me of the private dining room at Valentinos in Santa Monica: every wall of the room was lined with wines. The only difference, as this was a working cellar, blankets were placed on each leather bound chair to provide extra warmth.
In between the cellars, private tasting rooms and barrel room, we were shown the tiny skylights – they were the same glass tables we had started at. And finally, as we were led outside we were surprised by a large amphitheater. When they held events the cement rows would be covered with big colorful pillows…
Nearing the end of our experience I noted that the winery, located on the Silverado Trail, was probably the grandest on that end of the valley. If you’ve visited Darioush before I would say that you need to check it out again! You can begin by visiting their new website and enjoying your virtual tasting experience below.
(Aroma and Tasting notes separated by 😉
Honeysuckle, jasmine, sweet apricot, damp gravel; yellow peach, viscosity is mouth-coating, white pepper. Well done and not a common varietal found in the Napa Valley.
2012 Signature Chardonnay
Clean oak and lemon in equal parts, sweet pear, honey, smooth wet stones; toasted oak, medium acid, clean.
2012 Duel Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz (35% Cabernet, 65% Shiraz)
Dark fruit, milk to semi-sweet to dark chocolate, cracked black pepper; dry mouthfeel, tannin, cigar, lingering dark fruit and great spice. Great wine.
2011 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
(Half of what they sell is this label.)
Dark and plummy, pepper, wet bark; good dark fruit balanced with ultra firm tannins. Drink in 0 to 5 years.
2009 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
Blueberry, blackberry, dried leaves, mint; roof of my mouth got some biting fruit and tannin, good overall deep dark fruit against smoky alluring tannins. Drink now or drink later, your choice!
Put your nose in there long enough and yes, you can singe your nose hairs, chocolate shavings, stewing Bolognese spaghetti sauce; beautiful expression of Shiraz, dark spices, dark stewed fruits.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com