Posts From March 2007

March 28, 2007

Quintessa Winery Family Celebrates Easter in Chile


Easter with Chile’s Wine Visionaries
Four generations of the Huneeus family give Easter a Latin accent with pork empanadas and herb-crusted lamb, all matched with their phenomenal (and inexpensive) wines.
Food and Wine Magazine - April 2007

In Chilean wine, the Huneeus name is as famous as Mondavi is in the United States. Since the 1960s, the winemaking family behind the Veramonte label has helped turn Chile into a powerhouse of dependable, inexpensive reds, and more recently, they have pioneered fine single-estate blends in California. Now, as four generations gather for Easter at patriarch Agustin "Cucho" Huneeus and his wife Valeria’s house in the glamorous beach town of Zapallar, Chile, the family discusses its new mission: to show the world that inexpensive Chilean wine can be better than dependable—in fact, it can be stellar.

The day begins with an Easter egg hunt, organized by Valeria. After the granddaughters have searched and screamed through the house—an 1890s adobe villa with an inner courtyard full of hydrangeas, calla lilies and jacaranda trees—the family gathers in the front garden for an Easter feast. At a table overlooking a cove filled with red and blue fishing boats, Agustin Sr. and his son Agustin Francisco pour the wine. Delicate shooters of local king crab and sweet avocado are delicious with a crisp Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc. The main course is a juicy leg of lamb encrusted with bread crumbs, mustard and fresh herbs; it’s matched with Primus, Veramonte’s signature blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chile’s Carmenère. Valeria, who is a vegetarian, serves the lamb alongside crispy, puffy potato balls (papas duquesas) and a traditional Chilean tomato salad with sweet onions. "I always cook a meat because I cannot impose myself," she says in a voice that is both regal and breathy.

The Veramonte vineyards are in Casablanca Valley, 45 minutes northwest of Santiago. Not long ago, the area was nothing but pasture and scrub forest, and unlike the majority of Chile’s wine areas, it does not get water runoff from the Andes. Agustin Sr. bought land there in 1990 after noting the distinctive flavor of grapes from a small local vineyard. "When my father made his investment here, Casablanca didn’t exist," says Agustin Jr. "People thought he was insane." Because of its long, cool growing season, the valley is now a prized appellation—Casa Lapostolle and Concha y Toro both have vineyards there—producing richer, though far fewer, grapes than Chile’s warmer Central Valley. "We can hold off on picking the grapes to make the tannins smoother without losing fruit flavor," says Veramonte winemaker Rafael Tirado. The winery building—imagined by Agustin Sr. as a replica of Santiago’s central market, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel—is surrounded by 1,100 carefully planted acres of the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère grapes that become 200,000 cases of Veramonte and Primus wine each year.

The 73-year-old Agustin Sr. is a hands-on vintner whose closest encounter with retirement is a daily post-lunch siesta. As we walk through Chardonnay vines that have just been pruned, he stops and calls over Jorge Figueroa, Veramonte’s viticulturist, and points to bunches of grapes on the ground. "What’s your strategy with this?" he asks. Figueroa explains that they’ve cut the grapes to keep production to no more than seven tons per hectare in keeping with Agustin Sr.’s mandate of quality over quantity. As his father nods, Agustin Jr. says, "He hates that there are so many grapes on the ground. This is a lot of money."

Agustin Sr., who combines an aristocratic bearing with hand-on-your-back bonhomie, is a descendent of one of Chile’s oldest families. His ancestors include the first president of the University of Chile and the wife of the founder of the legendary Concha y Toro winery. He has lived in both the United States and Argentina, where he fled after the election of President Salvador Allende. "Agustin and Valeria have traveled all over, so they have a vision of the world that is different from other people in Chile, who have been limited by geography," says writer Isabel Allende, the niece of the former president and, ironically, one of Agustin Sr.’s closest friends.

Agustin Sr.’s life swerved into wine in 1960, while he was managing his father’s fish meal company. As an investment, his stockbroker suggested he borrow money to buy the struggling Concha y Toro. He decided to change the wines from a commodity sold in bulk in just two varieties—red and white—into something more appealing. He improved quality, introduced new brands at different prices, and started selling wine in European-style bottles instead of caning-wrapped chuico jugs.

By the end of the 1960s, Concha y Toro was exporting $1 million worth of wine a year. That ended with the 1970 election of Allende, whose socialist policies were at loggerheads with large landowners like Agustin Sr. Hearing rumors that he was about to be arrested, Agustin Sr. fled with his family to Buenos Aires. He eventually came to New York to head international operations for Seagram’s. Agustin Sr. left corporate life the day after he received his green card in 1977.

After Agustin Sr. bought and sold several California vineyards in the 1970s and ’80s, vintner Peter Sichel called him to help sell the flailing Franciscan Vineyards. Agustin Sr. ended up staying on as a partner and starting Franciscan’s Estancia label, which turned heads when, at $14 a bottle, it won the 1991 Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Sweepstakes Award. "There had been no real demand for quality wines at $10 before, and what came afterward—Kendall-Jackson and the like—started there," says Agustin Jr. The Huneeuses entered the high-end California market in the early 1990s after buying a Napa vineyard that now turns out a single wine: Quintessa, an opulent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that currently commands $125 a bottle.

Veramonte, like Quintessa, illustrates the potential of single-estate blends. A pioneer of this Meritage concept, Agustin Sr. says, "I don’t think for a minute that the variety of the grape defines the wine." One of the purest expressions of this is the robust, berry-flavored $20 Primus, launched in 1997. "Chile’s role is to make $20 wines better than any other place in the world," says Agustin Jr. "To do Primus in California, it would have to be a $100 wine."

With his mop of hair, bell-bottomed brown corduroys and MBA from Northwestern, 41-year-old Agustin Jr. is something of a foil to his Prada sunglasses-wearing father. Where Agustin Sr. is open and romantic, his son is intense and more businesslike, and what they call each other—Father and Augie—reflects this. After working on and off with his father throughout his life—one of his first memories is flying in his father’s plane over a vineyard, looking down on the grape pickers—Agustin Jr. came back to the family business in 2003. Says Valeria, "It wasn’t what I wanted, but I realized that it was what my son wanted. I always feared the electricity of the father-son relationship. But they work well." A self-described "finance guy" who reels in his father when he becomes too expansive ("Oh, Mr. Censor," Agustin Sr. responds with a smile), Agustin Jr. runs marketing and strategy while his father oversees planting and production. "As an MBA, Augie understands the business environment of wine today more than I do, since I got stuck in the ’romance’ part of the wine business," says Agustin Sr. In late 2007, Agustin Jr. will put his business acumen to the test with another venture: He will launch a boutique chocolate company based in San Francisco, sourcing the best cocoa from Venezuela.

Back at their Easter meal, Agustin Jr. is surrounded at the table by his three daughters—nine-year-old Antonia, seven-year-old Agustina and four-year-old Emilia—and his wife, Macarena, a clothing designer he met as a teenager. The family finishes their lunch with a delightful napoleon layered with flaky phyllo pastry, pillows of pastry cream and the delicious Latin American caramel called dulce de leche. While the girls scamper off in search of more Easter eggs, Agustins Sr. and Jr. talk about the future of Veramonte. They’re searching the best plots for what Agustin Jr. thinks is next: Pinot Noir. "Looking for the destiny of the land, that’s exciting," Agustin Sr. says, his voice dreamy. "There’s some land out there that’s our future. We have to explore. So we’ll have to build a road." His son sighs. "Great," he murmurs. "Because we’re so good at that."

Ian Mount has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine. He lives in Buenos Aires.

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

[Posted: 3/27/2007]

Posted by Pamela at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Organic, Quintessa


Napa Valley Register Articles - QUIXOTE WINERY

Quixote Winery tilts at glory with Hundertwasser design
By Louisa Hufstader

Napa Valley Register - March 23, 2007

Tucked amid the hills of Napa’s Stags Leap District, a small winery that broke ground more than a decade ago is drawing international attention — and many visitors to Carl Doumani’s Quixote winery are as interested in the place itself as in winemaker Mario Monticelli’s elegantly powerful petite syrahs and cabernets.

Small wonder: Quixote’s wines are outstanding, but the building is like no otherwinery in the world.

The only structure in America designed by the eccentric and whimsical Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), it’s all bright colors and undulating lines, appearing to blossom from the base of the Stags Leap palisades.

Hundertwasser aficionados will find all the hallmarks of his exuberantly organic style at Quixote: No two windows are the same and straight lines are nowhere to be found. Bright, natural light is everywhere. Olive trees grow on the roof; blue tiling trickles in rivulets down the outside walls.

From his desk beneath a golden onion dome, Doumani can enjoy his visitors’ wonderstruck expressions as they walk up the path toward his door.

“By the time they hit here, they’re smiling, and that’s what we want,” Doumani said. “If they walk in here and they’re happy, they’re going to like our wines more.”

It’s hard to imagine a grumpy mood in Quixote’s light-filled tasting room, an uneven ellipse that’s half windows, its floor tiled with end-cuts of walnut and oak.

One curving wall displays what Doumani calls his “rogue’s gallery” of photographic portraits: family members, a young Sidney Greenstreet, Buster Keaton with an elephant, “the only known picture of Picasso being nice to a woman” and other curiosities.

A patio garden and wall mosaic beckon visitors outside, where Hundertwasser used blue tiles to “drip” from the roofline in a nod to Quixote’s nearby reservoir.

The tiles, like many of Hundertwasser’s materials, are often cracked or broken and always irregularly shaped.

“His philosophy is: Straight lines are anathema,” Doumani said. “No two windows are alike, no two doors are alike — that would be boring.”

That concept took some explaining to the craftsmen charged with realizing Hundertwasser’s design: They had to be convinced that tile should be laid haphazardly and that plaster should not be smooth.

In turn, the workers were invited to make their own suggestions as the winery took shape. On visits to the site — which was under construction for much of the 1990s — Hundertwasser consulted with the masons and builders and often incorporated their suggestions into his design. One example: A boulder seat in the shape of a giant mushroom.

“That was part of his genius, bringing the people working on the building into the process, asking their advice,” Doumani said. “Lots of times he took their advice.”

Hundertwasser also took a saw to the parapet to make sure the roofline was suitably uneven, and — to make a point — a hammer to an already-installed ceramic column that had been made to order in Germany.

“He said, ‘They won’t know that you use things that are broken unless they see it,’” Doumani recalled. “You never throw anything away. That would be wasteful.”

Trees on the roof

Unlike wine country palaces that seem designed to call attention to themselves, Quixote nestles into its surroundings with surprising subtlety. The sharp-eyed passing on Silverado Trail can catch a glimpse of the onion dome — which reflects the light in different colors depending on the time of day — but Doumani has taken pains to veil his Hundertwasser as the designer himself intended, with mature olive trees screening the colorful building and even growing on the roof.

“You leave the building so it looks much as it did before from the air,” Doumani explained: hence the roof garden, with more than two feet of soil, which is now being replanted after the repair of leaks that had plagued the first installation.

Up close, the building reveals itself against its backing palisades like an invitingly pleasant hallucination.

“We were looking for something that was fun and colorful and witty,” said Doumani, who stumbled across Hundertwasser’s work in a calendar.

“I think that wine and the drinking of wine and eating is a social thing, and it’s fun, and I think that the building that it’s made in and where we work making it should be fun.”

Doumani, who founded Stags’ Leap Winery before starting Quixote in the late 1980s, made contact with the artist through Smithsonian curator Harry Rand “who, fortunately, likes Stags’ Leap wine,” and furnished a letter of introduction.

The winemaker and the designer — each known as a bit of an iconoclast in his field — began a years-long collaboration on the Quixote project, the final cost of which Doumani says today he doesn’t know.

“We didn’t keep track, otherwise we might not have done it,” he said.

At Quixote, Hundertwasser’s art isn’t limited to the building and its surfaces; there are also prints on the wall and a Rosenthal ceramic dish on the tasting-room table.

Hundertwasser even designed the label for Doumani’s flagship Quixote petite syrah, a festival of colors — some reflective — that seem to twinkle in the light. Take this bottle to a restaurant, and all eyes will be on your table — such is the appeal of even the smallest work by Hundertwasser, whose adopted name means “liberty kingdom hundred waters,” and who believed in the power of the golden dome.

“It’s very important to him,” said Doumani, who often speaks of the late designer in the present tense. “He just says it makes things better.

“Your life will change and good things will happen when you work under the gold-leaf onion dome.”

Quixote offers tours and sit-down tastings for $25 a person by appointment only; the winery can accommodate up to eight visitors three times a day, “and fun is had by all,” said General Manager Lew Price, dubbed “the Revel Rouser” by Doumani.

Call 944-2659 or e-mail to make an appointment


On the Lees: Appealing with Quixote from Stags Leap
By L. Pierce Carson
Napa Valley Register - March 23, 2007

Whether or not you feel Carl Doumani possesses the traits of the fictional hero for which his winery is named depends on how well you know him.

As designed by the witty Viennese artist, architect, philosopher and environmentalist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Doumani’s Quixote Winery does indeed capture the spirit of Miguel de Cervantes’ celebrated character.

But the wines crafted by Doumani and winemaker Mario Monticelli are anything but quixotic, as they’re sound, sure-footed, practical expressions of the Stags Leap winegrowing district, a region of the Napa Valley renowned for its silky cabernets.

If Doumani did tilt at windmills, he did it a long time ago. After all, who but a brash visionary like Doumani would have planted petite sirah (he prefers the syrah spelling) in an area not yet proven for hearty, late-ripening reds. But with neighbors like Nathan Fay and Warren Winiarski doing so well with Bordeaux varietals, Doumani was inspired to focus on his favorite wine, petite sirah. As others in the valley pulled out old petite sirah vines, Doumani planted anew.

That was more than three decades ago, when Doumani was chief cook and bottlewasher at his Stags’ Leap Winery. When he sold that winemaking operation to Beringer more than a decade ago, he decided to scale back and work on a wine project focusing on small lots of — what else — petite sirah,
as well as cabernet sauvignon.

Doumani was a fan of Hundertwasser’s works. But getting this reclusive artist to design his winery was easier said that done. He eventually made contact through a mutual acquaintance, only to learn that the Austrian architect was a fan of Stags Leap District wines. Still it took Doumani a decade to realize his dream.

Not only did he wind up with a Hundertwasser-designed winery (the only Hundertwasser project in the United States, by the way), Doumani convinced the Austrian to do his Quixote label.

Now, several years into the project, Doumani is producing two wines each for two labels, Quixote and, appropriately, Panza, from 27 acres of organically farmed estate vines. As he doesn’t use all of the fruit for his Quixote and Panza labels, some of the wines are bulked out.

Shortly, he will reach his planned production goal of 70 percent petite sirah and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon, with total production between 4,000 and 4,500 cases.

Doumani tends to bottle age his wines more than most. Current releases are 2001 for cabernet and 2003 for petite sirah.

Since 2001, all of Doumani’s wines are finished with screw caps. “I think it’s the best closure we have to date,” he says of his decision to forsake cork.

Panza 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40): The Panza wines are the easy-to-drink-upon-release offerings from this small operation tucked in the shadow of the Stags Leap palisades. A lush, silky expression of this varietal with very little oak in nose or palate, it has wonderful red cherries and plums on the extended finish. An elegant wine at a very good price. But don’t tell Carl.

Quixote 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($60): A bit more structure and finesse for this cab from a great vintage for Stags Leap and other Napa Valley reds. Blackberries and plums are evident on the nose of this soft, supple cabernet, with blackberries and currants lingering on the slightly sweet finish. A wine to drink today, but one that should be even better with a few more years in your cellar.

Panza 2003 Petite Syrah ($40): A well-balanced, ruby-colored elixir with an intoxicatingly spicy nose, this one’s a bit riper than its counterpart. Maybe that’s because of the fact that it’s blended with some syrah, mourvedre and grenache. A toasty nose and a mouthful of berries are its hallmark. Definitely a food wine, it’s ideal for spicy Italian dishes, your favorite barbecue or marinated game.

Quixote 2003 Petite Syrah ($60): A meaty, juicy, slightly smoky wine packed with black fruit, this is a single varietal wine that I found to be an ideal pairing for roasted wild duck breast. It has layers and layers of flavor, notably blackberries, and has an appealing long finish of blueberry and dark chocolate. Only 300 cases were produced, so a word to the wise — get some.

Locally, you can find Panza and Quixote wines at V Wine Cellar in Yountville’s Vintage 1870 and at Dean and DeLuca in St. Helena. The wines are on lists at Mustard’s Grill, Zuzu, Angele and Terra.

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Skowheagan School of Painting and Scultpure Announces 2007 Award Recipient, Ann Hatch

New York, NY  February 22, 2007 —Founder of Napa's Oxbow School, Ann Hatch, will receive the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture Governor's award for Outstanding Service to Artists at the 36th annual Skowhegan Awards Dinner on April 24, 2007. This will be held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and is chaired by Jodie and John Eastman.  Jane Lauder and Aerin and Eric Zinterhofer are Vice Chairs.  Awards will be presented by Joseph D. Ketner II, Chief Curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum; artists Ursula von Rydingsvard and Frank Stella; Patterson Sims, Director of the Montclair Art Museum; and Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art.

Founded by artists in 1946, Skowhegan is one of the country’s foremost artists’ residency communities, providing visual artists with a collaborative and rigorous creative environment for the development of new work. Since 1946 Skowhegan has brought together almost 4,000 artists—many of whom are among the country’s leading artists—as students and faculty for intensive nine-week summer residencies at the School’s picturesque 300-acre lakeside site in rural Maine.

As a further expression of its commitment to fostering excellence in the visual arts, Skowhegan honors artists, patrons and those who have demonstrated outstanding service to the arts/artists annually each spring. The Skowhegan Awards are one of the oldest honors of their kind in the art world.  The Awards Dinner raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the Skowhegan Scholarship Fund, which supports the School’s commitment to guaranteeing that all artists accepted to the program will be able to attend regardless of financial resources. In the last five years, over 94% of Skowhegan resident artists have received financial aid or fellowship support.

Over the last 36 years, the Skowhegan Medal has been presented to some of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Claes Oldenburg (1972), Georgia O’Keeffe (1973), Richard Serra (1975), Willem de Kooning (1976), Isamu Noguchi (1977), Agnes Martin (1978), Louise Bourgeois (1985), Cindy Sherman (1989), Nam June Paik (1991), Matthew Barney (1999), Kiki Smith (2000) and Lee Bontecou (2004).  Recognized for their outstanding service to the arts and artists, past recipients of the Governors Award include Marcia Tucker (1988), Jonas Mekas (1997), Irving Sandler (2002) and Rick Lowe (2005).  Recognized for their exemplary patronage, past recipients of the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Award include Paul Mellon (1972), Alfred H. Barr, Jr. (1974), Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1979) Dominique de Menil (1989), and Emily Rauh Pulitzer (2006). 

Ann Hatch, Governors Award for Outstanding Service to Artists
Ann Hatch is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the California College of the Arts (CCA) and a longtime arts advocate.  In 1983 she founded Capp Street Project, the first visual artists’ residency program in the United States dedicated solely to the creation and presentation of new art installations.  Fifteen years after its founding, in 1998, Ann Hatch was instrumental in merging Capp Street Project with the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at CCA.  In 1997 Hatch co-founded the Oxbow School with Robert and Margrit Mondavi.  Oxbow is the nation’s only semester program for high-school students that combines high-level instruction in the visual arts with academic subjects, with a mission to give them the confidence and self-worth to take more active responsibility in their own learning and lives.  Ann Hatch has served on the boards of many arts organizations, including the Walker Art Center, the Berkeley Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California and the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy.  She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from CCA and the San Francisco Art Institute.

For more information, visit

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

[Posted: 3/27/2007]

Posted by Pamela at 9:15 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Art Education, Non-wine activities in Napa Valley, Oxbow School


March 27, 2007

There are many fish in the sea, and most of them end up at Go Fish

By Michael Bauer

(Click on Image to Download Larger PDF File)

San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, March 25, 2007

Many restaurateurs have talked about opening a sushi restaurant in the Napa Valley -- and diners craved it -- but it took veteran restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn to actually do it.

Click Here for the entire article: GO FISH -Dining Out- By Michael Bauer


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March 13, 2007

Circle of Memory

One evening in the Fall of 2003 Carl and I drove to Oakland to support artist friends Eleanor Coppola and Robilee Frederick who were opening a temporary community art installation called, “Circle of Memory.”  

Neither of us had any idea what to expect.  

We were just curious about the latest effort of two artists whose kaleidoscope of work time and again  touches us deeply.  It seems to me that most art openings bring together a familiar group of like mind.  The Circle of Memory uniquely tugged a motley group of us from the nine counties that comprise the Bay Area community. Some walked from the surrounding downtown Oakland neighborhood, others drove in from Berkeley.  Still others took BART across the bay from San Francisco.  Our group drove from Napa.

By the time we saw the opening night installation, downtown Oakland neighborhood residents had discovered the installation and contributed to the interactive sculpture so that we found it fluttering with white notepapers bearing messages and filled with a palpable energy that profoundly moved and silenced our otherwise chattering group.   That we all knew Oakland was working hard to battle an alarming children's homicide rate added to the power of the Circle of Memory.

The journey of this exhibit can be tracked on

Wherever it is goes, this art installation is remarkable in its ability to inspire a unifying and healing dialogue.

If you have ideas about for bringing it to a new location, you’ll find suggestions on the site to help make this possible.

Personally, I’d like to see it in:  Japan, Ireland, Indochina, Africa and somewhere in New York.  If I can work with you to help make this possible, let me know.

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

Posted by Pamela at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Art Education, Non-wine activities in Napa Valley


March 2, 2007

Taste3 Conference Releases Video Content

Robert Mondavi Winery's inaugural Taste3 conference July 13-16, 2006 at Copia in Napa Valley was filled with thought provoking, enlightening and humorous presentations from a diverse, interdisciplinary group of speakers. We'll be releasing a selection of talks from each conference starting with these three talks from the 2006 conference.

Greg Jones, associate professor of geography at Southern Oregon University on global warming's impact on wine growing regions worldwide. (watch video)

Dan Barber, Chef/Owner, Blue Hill & Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Creative Director, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, on carrots and castration. (watch video)

Bryant Simon, Professor of History and Director of the American Studies Program at Temple University with his study of how the desires of daily life are revealed from the comfy coaches and in the drive-thru of Starbucks. (watch video)

Subscribe to receive e-mail alerts when new Taste3 video content is released along with updates on next year?s speakers and conference events.

Registration for the 2007 Taste3 conference, May 6-8 is open. Register here.

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or

[Posted: 3/2/2007]

Posted by Pamela at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | Share on Facebook | Napa Valley Chefs, Napa Valley Dining, Napa Valley Wines