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Darioush--A New Palace

by Sara & Monty Preiser

In the wine industry there are always "hot" wineries, meaning that for at least a period of time, wine collectors actively search out the wines made by the winery, distributors are inundated with calls from retailers who want the wine on their shelves, and consumers do what they can to taste them. A winery can be hot for a short period of time (maybe because it's new, or maybe it happened to make one superior bottle of a particular varietal), or for what seems like forever (because either the winery, or the marketing department, are truly exceptional).

Sometimes a writer's job is to not only identify a hot winery (easy), but also make a call as to whether the phenomenon is to be short-lived, or long term. We believe both tasks are easy insofar as they relate to our featured winery, Darioush.

Founded only five years ago by Darioush Khaledi, an Iranian who immigrated to the United States in the late 1970's in order to escape the Islamic Revolution, the rise of these wines to excellence in such a short time is to some extent an amazing story. On the other hand, Khaledi's background might have suggested this result. He was reared in a wine growing region in Iran known as "Shiraz," where his father made wine as a hobby and where young Darioush would sneak sips from the barrel. This led him to become a collector and, ultimately, to embark on a worldwide search where he could create world class wines from the ultimate vineyard estate. The present location of the Darioush winery in the Stag's Leap District of Napa Valley is a culmination of his search (there are 33 acres contiguous to the winery plus another 25 in the Mt. Veeder and Atlas Peak appellations).

The wines being produced at Darioush are clearly "hot." The prestigious Wine Spectator, in its late 2002 issue, awarded three excellent scores to three excellent wines. Two of the wines are already sold out at the winery, though you might find some at your local wine shop. Let's study them.

Due to Darioush's location, the vineyards benefit from the cooling influence of the San Pablo Bay, a preferential climate for classic Bordeaux varietals such as the three wines above. The most honored is, and, in these writers' opinions will continue to be, the 1999 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. The Wine Spectator not only gave it a whopping 94 points (we tasted it this summer), but marked it as "Highly Recommended," which usually means the price to quality ratio is reasonable. This Cabernet, which is elegant and shows flavors of cherry, currant, anise, cedar, earth, and sweet vanillin oak, retails for $62.00.

Also honored with a 92 by the Wine Spectator is the 1999 Shiraz, which is full bodied and hints of spice, blackberry, and black cherry. The finish is terrific. Retail $62.00. The last rated wine, with an 89, was the 1999 Napa Merlot, which is smooth and imbued with the taste of currant, peppers, cherries, and oak. Retail is $44.00. Both the Shiraz and Merlot are, as I mentioned above, gone.

Of course, the fact that a wine magazine has not ranked a wine varietal means nothing, as there are many reasons a wine may not yet be rated. This is particularly true of Darioush's 2000 Chardonnay, which shows citrus flavors and is made in the Burgundian style, and the winery's excellent 2001 Viognier, retailing at $28.00. Not very familiar to many consumers, Viognier, if made well, is a wonderful option to Chardonnay. It usually has a nose of apricots, peaches, and melon, with a mid-palate and finish of citrus and other fruits. Very few wineries make even a good Viognier, which is more to the credit of Darioush's respected winemaker Steve Devitt. We recommend the Darioush Viognier as one of the Valley's three best.

We have had the opportunity to visit Darioush, taste the ever improving wines, and watch it grow for the past three years. Their new winery is under construction and, when complete, will feature a state of the art 22,000 sq. foot facility in the design of Persepolis, the ancient Persian city founded by Darius I.

Under the direction of President Bernard La Borie, Director of Marketing Aleta La Borie, Steve Devitt, and Darioush, himself, the winery is committed to hand harvesting, handsorting, and minimalist intervention. Their labor intensive wine production, coupled with efficient administration and a preferred micro-climate, should allow them to meet their ultimate goal of producing classic Bordeaux wines. We predict Darioush will only get better and will have its place in the sun for many years.

Darioush: 4240 Silverado Trail, Napa, California 94558.
Tel: 707-257-2345 Fax: 707-257-3132

Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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