Elements of Style
Top Wineries for Extra-Tasting Activities
by Courtney Cochran
Admit it: After you've hit the 12th tasting room in a weekend, the wines invariably begin to taste the same. The good news is, although the wines you're drinking may taste alike, the spots you're visiting don't all have to look alike. From a Tuscan-style castle to a Persian palace, read on for a list of wineries that win points for great wine and gracious architecture.
So you can enjoy the view as well as what's in your glass, no matter how many stops you make.
The Victorian-style barn that houses the winery and tasting room at Corison Winery is a welcome reminder that Napa is still, after all, the countryside. Winemaker Cathy Corison's husband designed the charming gray and white structure, which does double duty as playhouse for the Corison kids' school plays.
East Meets West
Owner Darioush Khaledi drew upon his Persian heritage in creating his spectacular 22,000-square-foot namesake Napa winery. The butter-hued travertine stone that encases the winery was shipped from quarries in the Middle East, and the 18-foot freestanding columns that flank the entrance evoke the breathtaking grandeur of ancient architecture.
The grand "château" at Domaine Carneros is modeled after an 18th-century French castle owned by the winery's founder, Champagne Taittinger. Visitors are invited to stroll through the property's extensive European-style gardens before enjoying award-winning sparkling wines paired with optional caviar and artisan cheeses.
California Historical Landmark #893, Hop Kiln Winery in the Russian River Valley is a delightfully preserved 19th century structure that recalls Sonoma's rich agricultural past. The spot's signature masonry towers - originally used for drying hops - rise cheerfully from surrounding vines as visitors approach on winding Westside road.
The 107-room 121,000 square-foot Castello di Amorosa took 12 years to build and an estimated $30 million, a sum owner Daryl Sattui amassed after starting up nearby V. Sattui Winery. Fashioned after a medieval Tuscan castle, the wow-worthy spot boasts four levels, including a dungeon with authentic torture equipment purchased in Italy.
Romancing the Stone
Founded in 1857 by California wine pioneer Count Agoston Haraszthy, Buena Vista is the state's oldest premium winery. Just five minutes from the historic square in downtown Sonoma, the ivy-shrouded Stone Press Winery is modest in size but richly evocative of the bucolic early days of the California wine industry.
Buena Vista Winery * 18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma, CA 95476 *
For a winery esteemed for its groundbreaking architecture, Opus One can be easy to miss - not surprising given its semi-submersion in the surrounding landscape. A closer look reveals the stunning hemispheric structure - a collaboration between France's Rothschild family and Robert Mondavi - which receives visitors by appointment only.
Designed by controversial Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Quixote Winery is the fun house-like brainchild of Carl Doumani, founder of Stags' Leap Winery. With its abundance of columns, arches and undulating floors (Hundertwasser believed our feet prefer uneven surfaces), Quixote is a curve-centric homage to non-conformism.
Believed to be the largest handmade adobe construction since the California missions were built, Sanford Winery's Rancho La Rinconada is a model of energy efficiency. Completed in 2001, the striking mission-style structure incorporates recycled timbers and stays naturally cool year-round thanks to its 30-inch-thick adobe walls.
The glass, concrete and wood building housing Stryker Sonoma's Alexander Valley winery and tasting room is all about views: Visitors enjoy stunning vistas of the surrounding hills from the elevated glass box-like tasting room, designed by local architects Nielsen: Schuh. The adjacent working winery is also on display, natch.
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