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Tasting Room of the Week

Darioush Winery

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: It's a little bit Napa. It's a little bit Persia. It's a whole lot winery theme park. Welcoming visitors with four rows of 25-plus-foot-tall columns and a stone facade quarried near the ancient city of Persepolis, one might find this new Silverado Trail winery, oh, perhaps a bit aesthetically over the top. But it isn't every day one is invited to lounge inside a faux ancient palace and sip wine among the well-heeled.

Opened to visitors this summer, Darioush has already become a destination spot for Napa visitors as much for its incredulous architecture and design as for its outstanding wine. Suffice to say, it's worth whatever haul you have to make out the Silverado Trail to get there. Prepare to take your time, though. The staff, even on a weekday, seems a bit frazzled at the sheer number of people bellying up to the crackled-glass bar. Fortunately, there are glass bowls of pistachios strategically placed to nourish you during the wait.

Mouth value: In less than five years of production, Darioush has become wildly popular for its Bordeaux-style wines. Reds were the only wines available during the fall winetasting, though the winery does make a limited amount of Chardonnay and Viognier. The 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29) is a pretty spectacular value. You know you're in Napa with this Cab--a big, ripe, juicy drink that nearly bowls you over with its fruit and subtle spice. Even more impressive is the 2000 Red Table Wine ($38). Don't be misled by the humble name. This is a luscious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot that has an incredible nose and is very drinkable despite its youth.

Prices skyrocket with the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($64), but let your mouth be your guide. The 2001 Cab has a depth and smoothness that the '99 lacks. Even better was the 2001 Signature Shiraz that whets the palate with smells of toasty espresso. A little earthier, a little sexier and with an amazing mix of fruit and spice, this pricey but delicate Shiraz brought a tiny tear to my eye. OK, perhaps that was my Visa bill.

Don't miss: In addition to being a winery, Darioush will soon also be home to the Khaledi family, who are natives of Iran. It's well worth wandering around inside and out to soak in the amazing details--including a small amphitheater--of this 22,000-square-foot estate.

Five-second snob: The winery is named for its owner, Darioush Khaledi, who emigrated from Iran in the 1970s. Growing up in one of the country's most notable wine-growing regions (who knew--Iranian wine?), Khaledi's father was an amateur winemaker who inspired Darioush's passion for the grape. In a rags-to-riches story, Khaledi left his country with almost nothing and has made his fortune as the owner of a large grocery business.

Spot: Darioush Winery, 4240 Silverado Trail, Napa. Open daily, 10:30am to 5pm. Winetasting, $10. 707.257.2345.

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From the October 27-November 2, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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