We’re bringing Napa Valley to LA this week for a very special Winemaker Dinner hosted by Darioush Winery. We chatted with founder, Darioush Khaledi himself to hear how he got into wine-making and what he loves most about it.
Once you’re caught up, reserve a spot at the table Wednesday, July 1st in SAAM at The Bazaar by José Andrés where Darioush’s wine will be expertly paired with 21 courses of modern and traditional tapas.
How did you decide to become a winemaker?
That title always flatters me. I am a vintner, but not our winemaker. My long time friend and colleague whom I call ‘The Maestro’, Steve Devitt is our winemaker. We’ve been together since I founded Darioush back in 1997, and he has farmed the vineyards and made the wine for each vintage since.
What do you love most about it? What is the most difficult part?
I work closely with Steve on lot selection and blend assembly – choosing the lots for our Cabernet Sauvignon blends is like matchmaking, the joy is in identifying the wine’s best characteristics and developing the blend to both enhance them and create balance. It is the most rewarding and also the hardest work – we are trying to produce wines that are both approachable and age able, to achieve that you need harmony in a young wine that you believe will become a symphony later, after years of age. And tasting through 80 lots of wine in a day is no small feat!
How do you know when you’ve got a great vintage?
The vineyard tells you. Starting very early in the growing season, March or April, you’ll get an inkling – once you see flowering and fruit set. But the vineyard will keep telling you in ways large and small through to harvest. There’s no gaming Mother Nature, but I’m always happy when the mornings are foggy where we are in Southern Napa Valley; and mid-day is warm and the wind kicks up in the late afternoon. Those are pretty ideal conditions for the style of our wines.
Do you have an all-time favorite that you’ve made?
Choosing one is much like choosing your favorite child. Just can’t be done! However, as far as varietals go, I hold a special place in my heart for our Signature Cabernet. It exudes all the wonderful characteristics I sought to create. But I truly admire them all, wine is a living thing, they change and evolve like people do.
How did you decide on Napa for your vineyard? When is the best time to visit?
Napa is a very special place. If you’ve ever visited, you know. The more you’re here, the more you want to be here. It’s a place that beckons. At first, Napa was an opportunity to realize my lifelong dream of being a vintner, a dream I’ve had since childhood growing up in Iran with a family of hobby winemakers and lifelong collectors. I chose Southern Napa Valley because I believed in the potential of the cooler microclimate to help produce wines in the style I most admire – those from Bordeaux and Burgundy – but also express Napa Valley’s unique character. It’s easy to say harvest time is the best time to visit, September and October, because visitors can feel close to the action, but I love November best. When you drive down highway 29 in the morning, with the fog hanging low over the Valley and the air carries the smell of crushed grapes and fermentation, it’s magical.