Posts About Hundertwasser
February 13, 2008
Famed Kosher Cookbook Author Judy Zeidler Prepares a Feast for L'Chaim, Celebration of Life
Quixote Winery hosted a Celebration of Life lunch this past weekend with winery owners Carl Doumani and Pam Hunter joining Kosher cookbook author Judy Zeidler and her restaurateur husband Marvin in the kitchen. The lunch was an auction lot purchased by Monty and Sara Preiser of Florida and the Napa Valley at the 2007 L’Chaim benefit.
L’Chaim Napa Valley was created to ensure the continuation of L’Chaim Napa Valley’s Annual Jewish Vintners’ Celebration. This 3-day charitable event, now in it’s third year, showcases the contributions of Jewish Vintners in the Napa Valley, realizes support for charitable organizations in the Napa Valley, and brings members of the Jewish community from all over the world together in a broad-based philanthropic effort. This year the Jewish Vintners Celebration will be held the weekend of June 20-22, 2008.
Zeidler is the author of The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook, The 30-minute Kosher Cook, Judy Zeidler’s International Deli Cookbook, Master Chefs Cook Kosher and host of the Jewish Life television show, Judy’s Kitchen. This year she expects to release a new work based on 30 years of culinary research in Italy. Sunday’s lunch combined recipes she has collected and refined over many years in her popular Brentwood cooking school.
She began with her famously moist gourgeres and an onion-anchovy pizza while guests sipped Doumani’s 2004 Panza Grenache-Mourvedre. Husband Marvin stepped up for the first course of a puree of pea and bean soup topped with a parmesan zabaglione. Judy accompanied this course with homemade oven-baked potato chips she learned to make from Nadia Santini at Dal Pescatore in Italy. Next came a risotto drizzled with Quixote’s petite syrah and the big event of the day, Judy’s justifiably famous short rib and vegetable casserole perfectly paired with the 2001 Quixote Petite Syrah.
Sighs were heard all around when dessert appeared, a walnut torte en croute that is sinfully rich. Doumani accompanied this with his 2001 Quixote Cabernet Sauvignon at the urging of the Zeidlers.
Guests for the day included David and Emily Miner of Miner Vineyards and James Hall and Ann Moses of Patz and Hall. The volunteer crew was comprised of Christy and Peter Palmisano and Jerry and Amy Giaquinta.
To view the photos from the event please go to our flickr page : http://www.flickr.com/photos/studio-707
Click here for Judy's recipes from the luncheon.
Click here to view The Presier Key.
November 28, 2007
Holidays and Magnums
Another year has passed, another harvest. One more vintage is in the barrel. So, now we celebrate. It’s the holiday season again and at Quixote that means it’s time to offer you something special to complete the seasonal picture – our large format bottles.
The truth is we bottle very little of our wine in large formats. That’s why you don’t see the big bottles listed on our website order page or offered at winery visits. But when the holiday season arrives, when the air is crisp and the vines are golden, we are inspired to open our library and share the wealth.
What does this mean to you?
It means you have one final shot at special wines like the 2001 Quixote Petite Syrah, a dynamic vintage only now beginning to reveal its true character, even though it is still a young 6 years old. We have five cases, or 30 of the 2001 magnums available for purchase.
We have some 2002s and some 2003s, both the Panza blended versions and the Quixote 100-percent varietal versions. And for those of you who only discovered us since our grand opening in February we have a couple cases of magnums from our initial two vintages, the 1999 petite syrah and the 2000 petite syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
They are available now first come, first served.
We also have a limited supply of our popular Grenache-Mourvedre blend in the 750 ml format, an excellent pairing partner with that requisite turkey.
Although these wines are all still young, they should behave well in the company of that cassoulet or those braised ribs. Think about it.
April 23, 2007
Alder Yarrow on Quixote Winery and Petite Sirah
It seems to me that as people get older, especially those who we might consider accomplished and successful, they might feel a bit more license to lighten up or to stir the pot, having already proven themselves a bit to the world. I certainly plan on being a bit more frivolous, eccentric, and quirky if I can afford to in my old age.
Napa is filled with a generation of winemakers that could easily rest on their laurels. Over the past thirty years, this group of men and women have created an industry, and most have made their own fortunes. Rather than fade into the shadows of the next generation, many of these winemakers are striking out in new directions, prompting me to coin a new bumper sticker: "Old winemakers never die. They just keep fermenting."
By all accounts, Carl Doumani has nothing to prove. The founder and original owner of Stags' Leap Winery nearly 35 years ago, Doumani has not just been around the block, he was there before the streets were paved. In those days Napa valley was such a small community that when Robert Mondavi wanted to buy some of Carl's grapes, he just showed up one day and knocked on the door. Doumani didn't know who he was, but agreed.
Even before selling Stags' Leap to Beringer in 1997 for a hefty sum, Doumani had begun planning his own personal winery with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. He had no desire to create another Stags' Leap, and instead envisioned a winery that would exemplify his interest in architecture, art, and natural form. Six years later he had a winery that looked nothing like he ever imagined, and everything he could have dreamed.
It all began with a disappointing architect. I can imagine Doumani's big, stone-mason-like hands gesturing as he tried to convey a concept to the architect he had hired to do some sketches of his new winery. Doumani is an articulate guy, but architecture is famously difficult to capture in words. For whatever reason the architect wasn't getting the picture. In one of his last disappointing interviews with the never-to-be architect, he happened to notice a calendar on the wall featuring images of sculpture unlike any he had ever seen, sculpture that perfectly captured the spirit that he wanted from his building.
The calendar celebrated the work of the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a man that Doumani would spend years trying to find out how to get in touch with, and still many more months trying to convince that designing a winery for him was a good way to spend his time. What Doumani didn't know was that once Hundertwasser agreed, it would still be many more years before the winery was complete. Without relaying the whole saga, suffice it to say that Hundertwasser was a great, but easily distractible mind.
The finished product, however, is unlike any building Napa has ever seen. Architecturally its closest relatives (and indeed, direct stylistic influences on Hundertwasser) are the fantastical works of Antoni Gaudi, the virtues and fantasies of which which any Barcelona tourist can extol. Trees and grasses grow out of the roof, no two windows are the same size or shape, not a single right angle exists anywhere in the building, and Carl Doumani is one happy camper.
When Doumani hired Hundertwasser, he expected to get an architect. What he got instead was more of a winery with a patron saint -- someone whose philosophies are expressed not just in the physical structure of the building, but in the wineries whole orientation to the world. Partially because of Hundertwasser, Quixote Winery is growing its grapes organically, and the environmental footprint of the winery, from water usage to heating costs is intentionally low. And perhaps most importantly (though the winery owes this as much to Doumani as it does to Hundertwasser), the winery is simply fun.
Quixote winery is a welcome reprieve from the seriousness with which most Napa enterprises approach the world. From the wacky labels, to the walkway up front that is intentionally off-kilter, to the wildly colorful and massively expensive Italian ceramic tiles (that Hundertwasser miraculously received intact after a long ocean voyage and promptly smashed with a hammer to show that perfection was not his goal), Quixote manages to be the proper Napa incarnation of its literary namesake.
If there is one aspect of the winery that is not off tilting at windmills, it is certainly the winemaking, that progresses with deliberation and care under the watchful hands and eyes of Mario Monticelli, a UC Davis educated winemaker who consults on several small labels in the valley in addition to his full time gig at Quixote.
The winery produces around 3000 cases (and will eventually top out at around 5000) of Cabernet and Petite Sirah in 4 bottlings, two of each varietal. The lower priced wines are named Panza, after Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's ineffable sidekick, and the top wines bear the name Quixote.
With the gravitas of a grizzled veteran, Doumani will tell you that in this age of consolidation, the real future of Napa lies in small wineries -- wineries who are not afraid to do things a little differently. Gazing out from his office windows at what seems to be a perfect little ecosystem of oak trees and vines in the shadow of a golden dome of some post-cubist, semi-surreal architectural fantasy, that's pretty easy to believe.
Tasting Notes: Opaque purple in the glass with the density of ink, this wine has a tantalizing nose of smoke and black licorice aromas. In the mouth it possesses fantastic texture, slipping down the tongue with flavors of cassis, blueberry and damp earth. These flavors are supported with a skeletal structure of light, grippy tannins that propel the wine to a very nice finish.
Food Pairing: There's something about this wine that just cries out for Morcilla, traditional Spanish blood sausage, grilled with onions.
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $55
April 13, 2007
A Quixotic Discovery
Napa Sonoma Magazine
Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or Pamela@studio-707.com
Fun a Priority at Doumani's whimsical winery
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The winery is exceedingly idealistic and impractical, which is its definition and its name. Carl Doumani’s Quixote Winery in the Stag’s Leap District, a mile from Silverado Trail, is an unusual building. Although it contains places for the usual winery paraphernalia, its charm is its design and subsequent execution by the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
On a recent spring morning a tour group of 10, many from the East Coast, toured the only Hundertwasser building in the United States.
Marjorie Morgan and Whitney Robbins traveled from Bolton, Mass. to see the building after becoming Hundertwasser fans four or five years ago after stumbling onto the public housing project he had designed in Vienna. Robbins teaches her seventh-graders about the Vienna native. She asked her students to research Hundertwasser on the Internet and then write a poem about the passionate aesthetic who turned the world’s architects on their ears. “One girl wrote that he was a very free spirit,” Robbins said, after learning that the passionate Hundertwasser would call a news conference and deliver his address in the nude, to gain more coverage for his ideas. “The students got the aesthetic,” Robbins said.
‘A philosopher and ecologist’
"It is great to be surrounded by an aesthetic that is so complete. I’ve always taught that he is more than an architect, more than an artist, that he is a philosopher and an ecologist, which are different aspects of his personality. I was looking at the irregular shapes and by visiting here we get to live his philosophy and to benefit from it. It’s the best possible scenario and the legacy that he’s left us,” she said. Irregular shapes, brightly-colored mosaics and columns, gently undulating floors and walkways, curving rooflines and golden turrets characterize Hundertwasser’s style. Beyond that, he hated straight lines and loved to bring nature into his buildings, literally. Like the other buildings he designed, Quixote Winery has a natural roof, covered with 30 inches of soil. On it grow grasses, wildflowers, bushes and trees. On Saturday, Feb. 10, the New York Times published Chris Colin’s article on the winery, which officially opened to the public the following day. When the two-person staff (Lew Price, general manager and Liz Ross, executive assistant) arrived at the winery on Monday morning, they were deluged with 269 e-mails. The hundreds of phone calls and e-mails since have slowed to a trickle. “It was an amazing launch and it put us on the map,” Price said.
Planted trees in rooms
Price also talked about the designer’s Vienna public housing project, Hundertwasserhaus. “In Vienna, he made the owners give him empty rooms dotted throughout the building. He filled the rooms with dirt and planted trees, so their branches would grow out the building. He called them his tree tenants. He wanted to bring nature to the bleak environment of the inner city.” Quixote Winery began when Doumani bought 400 acres in 1970 and founded Stag’s Leap Winery. After building the business into an iconic wine brand, Doumani woke up one day and discovered he was managing people, which is not what he wanted to do. Instead, he wanted to start over again, with a small winery. He wanted to have a hand in everything and bring a sense of fun and whimsy back to the wine business, which he felt was taking itself too seriously. Price said Doumani began searching for an architect to build his winery and while he was in the office of a San Francisco architect, he spotted a calendar with a photo of Hundertwasser’s Vienna project. One thing led to another and in 1989, Doumani flew to Vienna to meet the artist. It turned out to be a perfect marriage and ground was broken in 1991.
Sidewalk too straight
Doumani and Hundertwasser worked together for seven years and created the winery, although not without some struggles. Price said workers had laid down the walkway, with its four or five different surfaces and Hundertwasser came to examine it. “We had to rip up the sidewalk because it was too straight and flat,” he said. Today, Doumani said the winery is a great place to come to work. “It’s light, airy and I get to watch people walking up the walkway. Usually by the time they get here they’re smiling, so we’ve accomplished our purpose. We made it a place that’s pleasant to come to, it uplifts your senses and we have fun. That’s what we set out to do.” With winemaker Mario Monticelli and vineyard manager Michael Wolf, Quixote Winery produces 2,000 cases of Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Grenache-Mourvedre, Claret and Syrah. The first vintage was in 1999. Doumani said work in the vineyard is ongoing, because “we’re always fine tuning what we’ve got. Really, it takes a long time to zero in on where we’re going to end up. With problems in different blocks, sometimes you can fix it; sometimes you can go with another variety or another clone to fix the problem. That’s what’s exciting to me.” For the future, Doumani said he and his staff have to keep improving on what they’re doing, get more consistency within the vintages and work on growing practices to produce the grapes and the wines that he wants. Is the wine good enough? “I drink a hell of a lot of it, it better be good,” he said with a laugh.
Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or Pamela@studio-707.com
March 28, 2007
Napa Valley Register Articles - QUIXOTE WINERY
Quixote Winery tilts at glory with Hundertwasser design
By Louisa Hufstader
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 email@example.com 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.
February 11, 2007
Where the Winery Itself is a Little Tipsy
Where the Winery Itself Is a Little Tipsy
By CHRIS COLIN
HISTORICALLY American fans of the wildly eccentric artist and designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser have had to board a plane to get their fix. But for those who do make it to his colorful, biomorphic public housing masterpiece in his native Vienna, or to his sparkling, off-kilter incineration plant in Osaka, Japan, his revolutionary aesthetic tends not to disappoint. Trees are considered tenants and grow out of their own windows. Flat floors are forbidden; an uneven walking surface is “a melody to the feet.” Residents can lean out of their windows and paint anything within arm’s reach. The roof? A minor wilderness.
Starting this weekend Americans can get a taste of that aesthetic when the Quixote Winery in Napa Valley, the only Hundertwasser building
in the country, finally opens to the public. Another place to swirl a glass in Northern California would scarcely be news, but this is not just another place. Tucked up in the golden hills, away from the stately villas and incongruously ornate mansions, sits what might seem the creation of a beautifully demented child.
“People either love it or they think it’s the nuttiest thing they’ve
ever seen,” says Carl Doumani, owner of the Quixote and the man responsible for bringing Hundertwasser’s vision to California. “But I watch them coming up the path, and I can see them smiling. And that’s the whole idea.”
Or at least much of the idea. The whimsy of a Hundertwasser building belies a strident philosophy of ecology and personal freedom. Born in Vienna in 1928, Hundertwasser began exploring these themes as a painter in the late 1940s. It wasn’t until the 80s that, as an influential artist and thinker, he began bringing his revolutionary notions to life in architectural form. He lived his later years in New Zealand, where he died in 2000 at 71. He was buried under a tulip tree. Just a handful of buildings had been built.
If “the straight line is godless,” as Hundertwasser famously said, the Quixote is a megachurch. Floors curve and roll. Trees rise from the 30 inches of soil covering the roof. No two windows are alike. Found material and assorted organic forms cover the surfaces. Outside, starlings nest atop the majestic dome over Mr. Doumani’s office. (Where they proceed to sully the German gold leaf, he likes to point out, “Birds have absolutely no respect for Hundertwasser.”)
With the Quixote as with Hundertwasser’s entire oeuvre, the aim is to show us that our structures, and by extension our lives, needn’t fit so tidily on the grid nor exist so far afield from nature. When Mr. Doumani, founder of the Stags’ Leap Winery, began considering designs for a second, smaller operation in 1988, he didn’t have this concept in mind. Then, while sitting in the office of a San Francisco architect one day, he spotted a calendar of Hundertwasser’s prints.
“You know,” he recalls saying, “this is more what I’m looking for.”
Mr. Doumani tracked Hundertwasser down that summer and arranged to meet him in Vienna. What he found was an activist as much as an artist, his causes ranging from public transportation to public toilets in New Zealand, license-plate beautification to peace in the Middle East.
He was, as the artist’s manager, Joram Harel, put it, “a completely free person.” He had given himself a new name. He was born Friedrich Stowasser — Friedensreich translates as “liberty kingdom,” Hundertwasser as “hundred waters” — and later tacked on Regentag, or “rainy day,” for good measure. He had delivered lectures in the nude. He had spent several years on a 60-year-old wooden freighter he had purchased in Sicily. He lived on mush made from 100-pound sacks of wheat.
Mr. Doumani, himself one of Napa’s freer souls, took to him instantly.
The two began discussing what the winery might look like, and the job was under way. Since Hundertwasser lacked formal training, an architect in Vienna helped coordinate plans with another in Napa. (Hundertwasser’s initial suggestion of burying the whole thing underground did not go far. “This is California,” Mr. Doumani told him. “We have sunshine, we like to be outside.”)
In the years to follow Hundertwasser and Mr. Doumani each crossed the ocean to see the other four or five times, in addition to sending numerous notes and revisions by mail. The job, executed somewhat sporadically, took almost a decade, and in 1999 Quixote produced its first vintage.
Mr. Doumani says he has since long since lost track of what the entire project cost. “Certainly twice as much as a regular winery,” he’s willing to guess. Nothing was simple.
He recalls trying to find a craftsman who could produce Hundertwasser’s trademark tile columns, which in shape and color resemble giant necklace beads. Nobody in the United States could meet the specifications because the lead paint that gave his colors their earthiness was prohibited. Mr. Doumani’s search took him to Germany, where he at last found someone to do the job. The designs were sent off, the elaborate columns were built and shipped, and, miraculously, the fragile creations arrived intact. Mr. Doumani installed them and proudly showed them off at Hundertwasser’s next visit.
Hundertwasser promptly picked up a hammer, stepped up to the nearest column and shattered it. Doumani’s jaw hung at roughly knee level.
“If they don’t see we use broken materials, they’ll never know,” Hundertwasser said. The hammer would later go to work on a few of the floor tiles too.
While Hundertwasser’s creations grew out of precise theories — that
mechanization was killing modern homes, for instance — he specialized in buildings that didn’t require a degree in architecture to appreciate. It generally helped not to have one.
“Architects hated his buildings,” said Nicholas de Monchaux, assistant professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work focuses on the intersection of ecology and design. “They were preoccupied with function and urban redevelopment” in the 1980s, he added. “Furry, dirty buildings don’t fit into that.”
Reinforcing that disdain was the impression that Hundertwasser was a kitsch populist (he took issue with those who belittled the so-called low desires of the people), a flouter of popular Modernist ideals (he likened conformity within the movement to slavery) and an unschooled interloper.
“The critics said, ‘This is not architecture, this is a three-dimensional
manifesto,’ ” Mr. Harel said. “Well, Hundertwasser agreed. He just wanted to show that the soul perishes in all these traditional buildings, and it’s especially dangerous because you don’t feel it happening. He felt the hidden longing of people to live differently.”
His efforts to make these points occasionally misfired. In 1982 Hundertwasser found himself speaking in the San Francisco offices of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of America’s largest architecture firms. Illustrating a point about how tenants should be free to leave their own mark on their dwellings,he grabbed a knife and began carving a design on the nearest wall. His point was not appreciated, and he later received a sizable bill for the damaged plaster.
(Mr. Doumani insists architects even threw food at him during one of his lectures, but Mr. Harel disputes that: “Who brings food to a lecture?”)
Meanwhile the public — in Europe, anyway — couldn’t get enough. But Hundertwasser shunned the praise, insisting he was a dilettante and not an architect. “I’m not good,” Mr. Harel recalls him saying. “It’s just that the others are so bad.”
He was rebuked mercilessly for suggesting that architects should put their egos aside and work instead to coax out their clients’ personal visions. He was equally emphatic about drawing out the creativity of the laborers on his projects, Mr. Doumani said.
He continued: “The genius of the guy is, he brings the craftsmen into the process. He always asks, ‘What would you do here?’ And they’d be proud of their choices. On weekends the carpenters, tile guys and plasterers working on the job — they’d be here with their wives or girlfriends, showing them what they’re working on.”
The Quixote, which recently received a land-use permit allowing visitors, isn’t likely to see the million or so visitors that the Hundertwasserhaus, his Vienna public housing project, receives each year. The winery is considerably smaller and lacks the social resonance. More environmentally sophisticated architecture can certainly be found. Still, after viewing
any of his creations, one tends to wonder why more buildings don’t look like this.
“Builders will tell you it costs too much, but they’re just looking at its up-front costs,” said Harry Rand, senior curator of cultural history at the Smithsonian Institution and author of “Hundertwasser,” a biography and consideration of the artist’s work. “A Hundertwasser-type building is built with an indefinite lifetime.”
Mr. Rand also asserts that the contentment of such a building’s residents translates to other economic benefits. Tenants of the Vienna housing project get sick less often, and their children perform better in school, he says.
Mr. de Monchaux, the Berkeley professor, contends that contemporary architecture has taken steps toward Hundertwasser-like irreverence. With the digital manufacturing of architectural components and computer-controlled steel-bending machines, wacky shapes are suddenly possible, he said.
Still, he concedes this isn’t quite what Hundertwasser was agitating for. His enthusiasm for rounded and irregular forms grew out of a desireto connect with nature and to tease out the natural creativity of builders and dwellers.
Teasing it out of a computer might well have him rolling over under his tulip tree.
January 6, 2007
THE CHRONICLE'S WINE SELECTIONS: STARS OF 2006
2002 Quixote Panza Stags' Leap Ranch Napa Valley ($40)
[Taken from Chronicle article on 12/15/2006. View complete article!]
Editor's Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or Pamela@studio-707.com