Friday, January 9, 2009


One word. Rolling out from my lips, the end is said with a sigh. Like a modern, mystical palace from Middle Eastern lore, you are transported from the turn onto the drive to the winery. A row of fountains shoot water 30' into the air and palm trees line the drive and building to complete the opulent oasis. A regal name and place for a winery striving to create a perfect nectar for the Gods. If this sounds overly dramatic, it's not, this one winery, Darioush, was the highlight of our entire trip - two months later and it's still a topic when we get together with the others.

Darioush Khaledi, a prince of grocers on the west coast, built his winery fulfilling his dreams as a young immigrant from Iran. The Persian influence is seen in the architecture and in the exquisite selection of the retail items: textiles, art, books, clothing and jewelry. I've always said nothing sells high-quality merchandise like a glass or two of wine first, his marketing brilliance obviously extends beyond produce.

And Darioush "the man" was every bit the elegant and gracious host, obviously successful yet warm and personable, it isn't a surprise that he's built a great empire. How romantic is it that he named his (in my opinion) finest wine after his wife, Shahpar - a beautiful wine for a beautiful lady as it appeared from the oil portrait that hung in the dining room. She was not in attendance, but joining us for dinner was Dan De Polo (President) and la belle Nathalie Vache both of Darioush Winery, and Dan Ha from Vineyard 29. With wines like these we could have been happy eating straw, but our hosts had kindly catered a dinner worthy of such an experience.

Preparing our dinner for the evening was Richard Reddington, Chef/Owner of Redd in Yountville, and in between courses we went around the table sharing our histories one by one. I cannot recount the exact stories, but the emotional flavor still lingers. Our meal, with wines follows:

2006 Darioush Russian River Chardonnay
Carnaroli Risotto, Maine Lobster Meyer Lemon Confit, Truffle Olive Oil

2006 Darioush Signature Pinot Noir
Sauteed Skate, Pumpkin Chanterelles, Chestnut Sage Butter

2005 Darioush Signature Shiraz
Liberty Farms Duck Breast, Celery Root and Quince Puree, Swiss Chard Crepe, Huckleberry Jus

2005 Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Shahpar
Redd's Chocolate Cake

As I mentioned above, my favorite thing all evening was the Shahpar wine served at dessert, it's flavor exceeded memories of my last taste of Chateau d' Yquem . While the romance of the name can be credited to Darioush, the romance of the flavor was created by winemaker Steve Devitt.

After dinner, we headed back to the various guest houses at which we were staying - we would be on the road by 5 am to head down to San Francisco International Airport. After the flight, all of the chefs were cooking at the March of Dimes "Signature Chef" fundraiser down at the Fairmount Hotel, with only enough time to shower before. Our trip was over.

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