Darioush (which in Persian means "in the name of Darius," and most likely refers to Darius the Great, the much-storied King of the Achaemenid Empire) Winery, located on Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, has become known for its limited-production, Bordeaux-style wines. The winery is owned by Darioush Khaleh, a Shah-era Iranian exile, and current supermarket mogul, while viticulture/viniculture responsibility is delegated Steve DeWitt. The winery produces approximately 14,000 cases of wine annually with over half of the production dedicated to its "Signature" Cabernet.
The wines offerred at the tasting were: 2007 Chardonnay ($38.99); 2008 Viognier ($34.99); 2006 Merlot ($46.99); 2007 Caravan Cabernet ($29.95); and 2006 "Signature" Cabernet ($69.99). (The price of the '06 Signature Cab appeared to me to be about 20% less than the comparable wine of the '05 vintage.).
The tasting was led by Allen Papp, a Darioush Estate Attache (I don't exactly know what that means) who provided an excellent overview of the winery and then took us one at a time through the wines on offer. The first wine tasted was the Chardonnay and, according to Allen, this wine has changed from past vintages. The winery has acquired four acres on Mt. Veeder and is now mixing that fruit with valley-floor fruit (60/40 mix) to produce the offered vintage. The barrels used in aging this wine has also been turned down to neutral thus diminishing the oakiness of the wine. These changes have resulted in a lean Chardonnay somewhat reminescent of Ramey's Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay. I liked it.
The Viognier is made from fruit grown at the Ashley Vineyard in Oaknoll. The wine, of which 1400 six-packs are made, exhibits great acid and, even though characterized as a dry wine, some residual sugar. Significant peach and floral elements on the nose follow through to combine with an oiliness on the palate. Definitely a seasonal wine.
The Caravan, the "baby" Signature Cabernet, is harvested from 5- to 7-year-old vines and utilizes the same clones and style as does the Signature Cab. The '07 instance of the Cab has been green-harvested to provide lower yields than the '05. Allen sees the vintage as having a little more acidity than the '05. I evidenced a creaminess and significant amounts of blackfruit but felt that this vintage fell short of the '05. While the '05 was rounded and had great mouth-feel, the '07 felt flat and died mid-palate. The varietal mix for the '07 is 76% Cab, 12% Merlot, and the remainder evenly distributed between Cab Franc and Malbec.
The Signature Cab is subjected to three berry-by-berry sorts in order to ensure that only the best fruit make it into the final brew. A measure of the care that is taken with the fruit is the fact that pickers place picked berries in 14-lb champagne buckets in order to minimize fruit-bruising. The vines utilized for the Signature Cab are from 9- to 12-years old. The varietal mix is 85% Cab, 9% Merlot, and the remainder evenly distributed between Cab Franc and Malbec. In the tasting I got hints of anise, coconut, vanilla, blackfruit, and dark chocolate.
All in all a very good tasting. A small, tightly controlled group. A good time was had by all.