There’s the jewelry store around the corner, and then there’s Tiffany. There’s your favorite diner, and then there’s French Laundry. So there are Napa palaces, and then there’s Darioush.
The entrance to Darioush Winery.
From the time that it opened in 2004, the Darioush “hospitality center” has stood out for its architecture, its wine, its shopping and, to our point of view, its excess. Power Tasting is dedicated to the wine tasting experience. We put the emphasis on tasting wine as a vacation activity and a pleasant avocation. We have found that Darioush places the emphasis on the experience, more so than the wine itself.
Let us hasten to say Darioush does make some very fine wines. Their style runs to big, round, powerful wines. A number of them are based on Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In our opinion, the strength of Darioush’s list resides in their Rhone grapes: Viognier and Shiraz. At Darioush, the grape is called Shiraz, not Syrah; what animates the Darioush winery is the glory that was once Persia, where the grape originated.
The name of the founder, Darioush Khaledi, harkens back to the great Persian emperor Darius, which not coincidentally is the name of their top-of-the-line Cabernet Sauvignon. The proprietor is an Iranian immigrant to the United States who made his fortune in the grocery business and then entered the world of wine. He built his Persian temple alongside Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail so that it would be noticed.
Tasting at Darioush.
It certainly can’t be missed. Out front, there is a flaming cauldron that heralds a colonnade of pillars topped with Persian-like double sculptures of horses. These lead to a large building made of warm, honey-toned stones. The interior is equally commanding, with more columns holding up a high ceiling and a skylight, over a large, square tasting bar. Scattered around are small rooms and nooks for private seated tastings; these too are furnished in Persian style.
Along the walls and in the corners are items for sale: purses, scarves, knick-knacks and wine-related implements. All of them are exquisite and, as we were told by a Darioush representative, “our clients expect the items we sell to be expensive”.
And that says everything about the winery. Everything about it, including the wine, is designed to overwhelm the visitors’ senses. You are certainly invited to try and enjoy the wines, in the context of beauty, refinement and luxury.
It is notable that the building is called a hospitality center, not a tasting room. The owners say that the experience at their winery is based on the culture of “Tarof”, a Persian word that can indeed be translated as “hospitality” but also with connotations of an emphasis on deference and social rank. You are surely welcome, in the same sense as a visit to your wealthy uncle. You are introduced to many wonderful and precious things, but in the end you feel smaller, rather than enriched.