Monday, December 10, 2007

Come for the Architecture, Stay for the Wine

Carl Doumani, founder of Stags' Leap Winery, decided he wanted to own a smaller winery. So in 1996 he founded Quixote Winery after selling Stags' Leap. Like Stags' Leap, Quixote is best known for its Petite Sirah.

However, what brings many visitors to Quixote is not the wine but the unique architecture. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a Viennese painter and sometimes architect, designed Quixote's building. Like all of his works, Hundertwasser included no straight lines in the building's design planted grass on the roof, capped the building with a turret, and utilized an array of colors.

You can learn much more about Fred Hundertwasser and his work by visiting Quixote. The 90-minute tour and tasting includes a presentation on the architecture as well as a tasting of Quixote's current releases. The tour does not include a visit to the production facilities as they are small and of less interest than the exterior architecture.

As for the wine, Quixote produces about 3,000 cases of Petite Sirah, Cabernet, and other varietals. Petite Sirah is not the same as Syrah (or Shiraz as the Aussies call Syrah). Rather, it is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin that was first propagated in the 1880s in the Rhone Valley of France by Francois Durif. In France and other parts of the world, the grape is known as Durif; however, it is seldom vinified in France.

Petite Sirah is a big, often highly tannic wine. Sometimes Petite Sirah is blended with other varietals to add more color and body tot he wine. The only thing petite about petite sirah is the size of the grape.

As you can probably tell, Doumani likes to do things differently. One other difference in his wines is that all the bottles are sealed with screw caps. This isn't the place to debate the merits of cork and twist-off closures, but Doumani believes that screw caps provide the best protection for his wines.

An advance appointment is required to visit Quixote. A tour and tasting costs $25/person. If you would like to include Quixote on a private Napa Valley tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) to arrange a visit. You may also e-mail me by clicking here.

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