Monday, January 07, 2008

Art With The Pour at Artesa Vineyards & Winery

NAPA, Calif.
In the final part of My Excellent Holiday Adventure to Napa with my friends Stella and Mariusz, we arrived at the primary destination of our day—the Artesa Winery for some wine tasting and sightseeing.

Stella had suggested the winery because it’s one of the newer spots along the Napa Valley stops. It’s not along the traditional Hwy. 29 route but a bit west toward Sonoma in the Carneros appellation. Artesa (it’s pronounced ar-TUSS-ah, and not Artesia like how I had it in my mind the whole time I was there) started in 1991 as a sparkling wine producer. But in 1997, they hired a winemaker and began producing wine two years later.

One of the distinguishing factors about Artesa isn’t the wine but the scenery and art displayed throughout the winery. For example, the above sculptures (which makes me think of “Stonehedge on a Diet”) decorate a water fountain at the front of the winery’s estate near the parking area.

All of the artwork at the winery is by Napa artist Gordon Huether, who for the sculptures outside seemed to like to play with light and the natural Napa scenes. This multi-color-tinted sculpture in the center of the stairways leading to the entrance reminded me of the plastic sculptures my dad used to create for his job at a plastic sign shop. He would have loved this sculpture. Totally something right up his alley.

Here’s the entrance of the winery. It really looked like we were heading into a bunker or something. But according to the Web site, the architectural design was trying to blend the winery into the natural landscape of Napa Valley. So instead of driving up and seeing a big mansion ala Falcon Crest, you get this bunker.

The three of us signed up for the four-wine flight ($10 per person) and started off with a couple of white wines. The people at Artesa are pretty casual about the wine-tasting, so they encourage you to take your glasses and wander around the winery checking out the artwork or the scenery.

It was such a beautiful day (albeit a bit chilly) that sitting outside enjoying your wine was a very popular choice.

We’re already into the reds. This is the final red of the day, a Cabernet Sauvignon. I have to say, I wasn’t very impressed by what the winery offered for its tasting. The two whites were weak and the first red (a pinot noir) was just so-so. Only the Cab at the end had any body and complexity that was enjoyable. (Also, the guy pouring the wine wasn’t very chatty about the wine. I tried to ask him a few questions about the wine and he seemed thrown by my questions.)

There’s artwork all over the place, in an area that really reminds me of a SFMOMA gallery or something. This was one of my favorites. I love the color and simplicity.

We finished up our red wine in the “club room.” There’s Mariusz, who’s busy surfing the Web on his iPhone.

Along with the “club room” for special wine events, the winery offers tours and this mini museum of viticultural artifacts.

Of all the fancy artworks and average wine for tasting, probably the best offering by Artesa is this beautiful view of the vineyards. The viewing deck faces west, perfect to capture that Napa sunset.

Artesa Vineyards & Winery, 1345 Henry Road, Napa. PH: 707.224.1668. Web site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow chef ben, looks like a gorgeous day to visit wineries!