A visit to Darioush, Napa Valley

Amphitheater at Darioush, Napa Valley

Entrance at Darioush, Napa Valley

Cheese Platter at Darioush, Napa Valley

Darioush entrance, Napa Valley

Darioush Winery, Napa Valley

Tasting Room at Darioush, Napa Valley

Tasting Room at Darioush, Napa Valley

One of the starring attractions on Napa’s Silverado Trail, is Darioush. I knew I was in for something different as I pulled into the mandatory valet parking area in front of the massive fire torch in the driveway.

Valet parking, I learned is a way they can ensure the tasting room doesn’t get overcrowded, which I can see could often be the case.  More of a Persian palace than what you’d imagine to be a Napa Valley winery, this surprising piece of the Middle East was packed when I arrived.  I could see that beyond the exciting theme, and glamorous tasting room, people were really enjoying themselves, being entertained and, like in Las Vegas, transported to a different place.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this visit was.

It all made sense when I learned that owner Darioush Khaledi grew up in Shiraz, a wine region in Iran, and today his winery design is based on Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia.

After founding a successful grocery store chain in LA, the former civil engineer dreamed of owning a winery in Napa. After five years of construction, in 2004 the winery opened.  The winery is 22,000 square feet, and the yellow stone you’ll see in the exterior was actually quarried near the region of Persepolis in Iran, exported to Turkey and Italy for cutting and tumbling, before it reached the Silverado Trail.  Darioush is the first winery in America to combine architecture, design and Persian culture.

My host, Marc explained Darioush has three vineyards around Napa, with a 100 acres under vine.  Darioush also owns a vineyard in Argentina.  I tried the Bordeaux-style wines paired with cheeses, part of a tasting experience called “Fine Wines, Artisanal Cheeses.” It was a delicious pairing and a great way to try some local cheeses.

I also managed to get a sneak peek underneath at the cellar where many of the special tasting experiences are held.  The winery has its own amphitheater framed with palm trees, which is another surprising touch to this unusual place.

I was excited most of all by the exceptional level of hospitality and service here.  The staff are friendly, welcoming, well organized, and most of all fun.  The other wineries are great, but this seems to have an extra step up in terms of the visitor experience. I later learned one of the most important aspects of the Persian culture is hospitality, something that is embedded into a visit to Darioush.

Expert tip:

This is a fun place to spend some time beyond the tasting room.  Some of the experiences are pricey, but the Fine Wine & Artisan Cheese experience is not only delicious but will get you behind the scenes to winery’s Barrel Chai.

WineryCritic Ratings

9/10 Overall visitor experience

10/10 Knowledge of guide

10/10 Location

10/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

10/10 Other experiences: Tours & tasting

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  No appointments required for tastings.  For special experiences you will need to book ahead with the Concierge.

Address:  4240 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

Tasting room hours:  10:30am to 5:00pm daily

Tasting fees and Experiences:

  • $18 per person – Amuse Flight.  Featuring two wines.
  • $40 per person – Tableside Portfolio Tasting.  Featuring five flights to choose from. Parties larger than six guests should reserve their Portfolio Tasting in advance.
  • $75 per person – Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses.  This touring and private tasting experience is held in the winery’s Barrel Chai and features Marin County’s acclaimed Cowgirl Creamery.  Offered daily at 2pm. (90 minutes).  Appointment only.
  • $150 per person – By Invitation Only.  Private tasting inside the cellar featuring exquisite bites designed by the Khaledis’ private chef.  Offered daily at 11:00 am. (120 minutes)
  • $300 per person – Quintessential Wine Experience. Includes glass of Krug champagne and tastes of imported caviar, a bottle of Bordeaux from Darioush Khaledi’s private collection, a bottle of Darioush’s Bordeaux-style Signature Cabernet Sauvignon.  Each wine is expertly paired with amuse-bouche crafted by celebrated Napa Valley chef, Ken Frank of La Toque.  Appointment only.

“Probably the most astounding example of hospitality in Napa, the Quintessential experience invites guests to relax in Khaledi’s private cellar and select a bottle from his collection of Bordeaux, to be served alongside Darioush wines and small plates.”

– Wine Spectator Magazine, June 15, 2009

Good for:  Special events, couples, celebrations.

Wines produced:  Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon.

What’s nearby:  Signorello Vineyards, Reynolds Family Vineyards, Clos du Val, Chimney Rock.

District/Appellation: Oak Knoll, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments:  Call the concierge at 707.257.2345 ext. 130, by email at concierge@darioush.com or through their website.

Date of visit: July 20, 2013

E-mail:  mindy@winerycritic.com