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Swirl 'n' Spit
Tasting Room of the Week

Clos Pegase Winery

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: Long before COPIA arrived on the scene, Clos Pegase was extolling the virtues of art and wine--and giant bronze thumbs. Located just outside Calistoga, this winery is equal parts art museum and winery, merging the grape with the great masters of sculpture, painting and architecture.

Completed in 1987 by the famous architect Michael Graves (popularized recently by his line of kitchen wares at Target), the massive columns and soaring porticoes hark back to ancient Greece. The ultramodern sculptures, however, including the aforementioned giant thumb are, well, a little less classical in nature but impressive in scale, if nothing else.

Mouth value: Of the three tastings offered, the best bet is the $10 red wine selection--though I was frankly disappointed at not having the option to taste any of the winery's white wines without forking over another $5. When I queried the staff about this, I was asked if I liked whites or reds, and told to taste what I liked. Um, right. I like both. Frankly, the policy seems a little screwy.

In any case, the 2001 Mitsuko's Vineyard Pinot Noir ($30) is a nice, earthy wine with lots of sweet fruit. New to the winery, the Pinot is a charming addition despite being quite different in character than its coastal cousins. I was less stunned by the 2000 Mitsuko's Vineyard Merlot ($25), which seemed a little flat, as did the 2001 Pegase Circle Claret ($22). Pegase's wines, however, tend to have a more subtle, Bordeaux-influenced quality rather than the big, beefy Cabs typical of Napa. The 2001 Pegase Circle Reserve Zinfandel ($22) had some of the qualities of both, with a subtle velvety quality that's not usually found in typically spicy, peppery Zinfandels, as well as lots of oak and fruit. Cellaring will likely reveal even more curves and sex appeal in this wine.

Don't miss: Great art and wine is nice, but petrified wood? Who can beat that? Just down the road is the Petrified Forest. You've probably driven past it a thousand times. Stop into the gift shop, if nothing else, to learn how wood turns to stone--or silica, to be precise. Cheesy, educational, and very . . . geological.

Five-second snob: Clos Pegase is named for the winged horse, Pegasus. The myth goes something like this: where Pegasus' hooves scraped the earth, great springs arose to nourish the grapes. From those grapes came great works of art and literature. (Everyone knows that the grape inspires greatness, as well as really nasty hangovers). Ergo, Pegasus was responsible indirectly for such greatness. Clos is the French term for an enclosed vineyard. Feel enlightened?

Spot: Clos Pegase Winery, 1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga. Open daily, 10:30am to 5pm. Winetasting, $5-$25. 1.800.366.8583.

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From the November 3-9, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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