On a recent trip to Napa Valley, I scheduled time with producers I’ve never visited and a handful I have been to previously. In one case I’d been several times prior, but not in a few years, and it was time to correct that and see what they were up to. That particular producer is Darioush, a fairly small winery in terms of production size. In all, they make about 20,000 cases of wine each year and roughly half of that is their best-known wine, a cabernet sauvignon.
Darioush sits towards the southern end of Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Of the two main thoroughfares in Napa, Silverado is the less densely populated, slightly quieter one. Darioush’s physical structure is one of the more lavish and ostentatious in the valley. It was founded by Darioush Khaledi, an Iranian immigrant who made his fortune with a family-owned grocery store chain in Southern California. As you drive up, it’s difficult not to be enraptured by the gorgeous property and winery building. In fact, the building is so incredible that you almost expect this to be one of the places you walk into and experience the attitude that some Napa producers are unfortunately known for. At Darioush, nothing could be further from the truth.
Everything at Darioush, from the design of their facility to the pace of their tastings, is done with the comfort and enjoyment of their guests in mind. One recent change highlights that nicely: on Saturdays, they are only open by appointment. The other days of the week, guests can simply show up. But they found that on the busiest day of the week, their regulars preferred a more tranquil atmosphere that switching to appointment-only contributes to, so they made the change.
Sitting on a comfortable chair, tucked into a cozy corner, I took part in their Signature Flight ($40). Every little while, the person who was helping me stopped by to check on me, answer any questions, and bring me a new wine when I was ready for it. Here are my thoughts on the current releases.
Darioush Signature Viognier 2013 ($41)
Yellow melon and lychee fruit aromas abound on the welcoming nose of this viognier. The gently layered palate is studded with lots of sumptuous apricot, peach, and a hint of nectarine. The long, lush finish features impressive mineral and spice elements. This viognier is perfect to sip all by itself and also works well with light foods.
Darioush Signature Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($45)
All of the fruit for this sauvignon blanc came from Mount Veeder. It was aged in new French oak and Stainless steel. Vanilla, toast, and wisps of linseed oil all represent on the nose along with citrus aromas. Peach, grapefruit, and nectarine flavors are prominent through the fresh and firm palate. Lemon curd, spice, and bits of oiliness make up the lengthy finish. This is a distinct example of sauvignon blanc that will work extremely well when paired with soft cheeses, salted nuts, and the like.
Darioush Signature Pinot Noir 2012 ($65)
This pinot noir, which comes from a small vineyard in the Russian River Valley, has a slightly darker color than average. The nose shows off lots of spice, bits of earth, and red fruit aromas. Rhubarb, dark cherry, cinnamon, and cardamom are all in evidence on the complex palate. The finish here is impressively long with measured intensity, depth, and grace to spare. Mineral notes, continued spice, and bits of earth are all in evidence. This is a gorgeous example of Russian River Valley pinot noir.
Darioush Duel Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2012 ($55)
Hints of forest floor and rich bramble dot the nose of this blend. Red and black fruits come together on the palate, with raspberry and blackberry dominating. Minerals, earth, and a copious amount of spice are part of the long and persistent finish. Medium tannins, which yield easily with air, are part of the lush, mouth-filling nature of this wine, which is a hedonistic pleasure to drink.
Darioush Signature Shiraz 2012 ($74)
Black cherry and Madagascar vanilla bean aromas light up the nose of this Shiraz. The rich palate is stuffed with black raspberry and other dark fruit aromas, as well as bits of black tea. Sour black cherry, minerals, chicory, and continued spices are all part of the above average finish. Chewy tannins and firm acid mark the terrify structure of this wine. Drink it now with full flavored foods or lay it down for five or so years. In either case it’s going to be a delicious wine.
Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($95)
Rich mulled-berry aromas, vanilla, and savory herbs such as thyme are all part of the nose on this cabernet. Tons of red fruit flavors dotted with black fruit elements mark the substantial palate. Cocoa, espresso bean, and heaps of spice are all in play on the long finish. If you’re looking for top-shelf Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, this release from Darioush is one to consider.
I toured the building after my tasting with their Hospitality Director and witnessed a diverse array of other tasting options available at Darioush. Whether you want to walk in and bump up to the bar to taste a couple of wines or dig in for a festive lunch over the span of a few hours (or several other appealing options), they have choices for you. Some experiences are available during specific times, so check their website for details. The important thing, though, is when your travels next take you to the Napa Valley, Darioush should be on your very short list of must-visit producers. Figure out which experience suits you best, make an appointment (even if it’s not a Saturday), and enjoy the warm embrace of the hospitality at Darioush. Not to mention the well-made, proportionate, and interesting wines they offer.