AFAR Magazine, November 2022
The worlds of wine and art have been linked for centuries. Wine appeared in ancient drawings of vines and harvest in Egyptian tombs, the Renaissance brought paintings like Caravaggio’s Bacchus, and today wine still has the power to inspire artists. Both passions are associated with creativity, culture, and pleasure, and both express and evoke emotion—so naturally blending the two creates a heightened sensory experience.
That seems especially true in Napa Valley, where oenophiles and art experts often produce the perfect pairing. Here are five places to experience them together.
The Hess Art Collection at the Hess Collection Winery
Go for: art from one of the world’s top collectors
The Hess Collection Winery’s founder, Donald Hess, was named one of the world’s top 200 art collectors by ARTNews in 2013, and the Hess Collection Winery on Mount Veeder gives tasting room visitors access to his extensive permanent collection in the Hess Collection Museum of Contemporary Art. Hess began collecting paintings, sculptures, and art installations as a hobby. As his luxury wines garnered critical acclaim and the winery grew, he displayed pieces throughout the estate and eventually dedicated three levels to art.
One provocative piece is Homage, depicting an Underwood typewriter in flames. It was created in 1974 by Argentinian sculptor Leopoldo Maler as a tribute to his uncle, David Kraiselburd, who was assassinated for his political essays in the same year.
To celebrate the art-wine fusion, the Hess Collection offers a variety of wine and art tours, including “Tour of the Palate” and “Elevated Tasting and Tour.” Or choose the tour in which Robert Ceballos, the winery’s director of art, personally guides you through the collection. Each tour includes a seated winetasting; visits and tours are only by reservation. Tastings begin at $85 per person.
Go for: eclectic art for sale inside Yountville Tasting Room
The Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery envelops guests in a blended art and wine experience. Contemporary abstract, figurative, and landscape art by local and international artists like Jylian Gustlin and Yaz Krehbiel covers the walls of the tasting and adjacent rooms. Visitors are prompted to view the eclectic collection with a glass of wine in hand; winemaker Rob Lloyd crafts chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and more from Northern California vineyards.
Cynthia Carey, the resident artist and gallery curator, personally selects the artists and pieces for the gallery. She also provides art advisory services, and helps collectors select Jessup Gallery works to build their art collections.
“The gallery makes the wine tasting experience more interesting, and it makes the tasting room feel like home—art does that,” Carey says. Tastings of Jessup Cellars’s wide selection of varietals start at $60 per person, and the gallery stroll is included. All artwork on display is available for purchase.
Artesa Vineyards and Winery
Go for: a winery that itself is a work of art
Owned by Spain’s oldest winemaking family, Raventós Codorníu, the Artesa Winery in Los Carneros is a work of art. Renowned Barcelona architect Domingo Triay designed the avant-garde winery to blend with the landscape. The top level showcases sweeping views with floor-to-ceiling windows. The stairs to the entry set the tone with calm pools, fountains, and abstract sculptures juxtaposed with the surrounding nature while simultaneously melding into the vast landscape.
The Tasting Salon was designed by Signum Architecture and awarded the 2018 Design Award from the American Institute of Architects. Napa artist and former artist-in-residence, Gordon Huether, created the series of sculptures for the fountain at the vineyard’s entrance and several other works on the property.
But the focus is truly on the wine crafted by rockstar winemaker Ana Diogo-Draper, who is praised for her artisanal estate-grown, small-lot chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon. Even the bottles are decorated with art that expresses each wine’s distinct personality and story, and the entry to the Salon displays large versions of the labels. Tasting reservations are highly encouraged; tastings start at $45 per person.
Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art
Go for: indoor/outdoor art where you can bring your own picnic
For those who want to view a wide selection of art in one place, the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art fits the bill, holding over 2,000 pieces of contemporary art in a series of galleries and on a 217-acre outdoor arts preserve. The 30-foot sculpture on the hill outside—For Veronica by Mark di Suvero—epitomizes the gallery’s modern, abstract theme.
Di Rosa maintains a permanent collection of notable works by artists living or working in the Bay Area, with a wide range of styles, media, and subject matter. The indoor collection spreads across almost 15,000 square feet and includes visiting exhibitions and a permanent collection showcasing Northern California artists.
Beyond the galleries, the sprawling Di Rosa Arts Preserve is an oasis for art and nature lovers. With sculptures dotted throughout the Sculpture Meadow and a scenic Winery Lake, the Preserve delivers an idyllic setting for a relaxing picnic surrounded by olive groves (guests bring their own food and beverages).
Located in the Carneros region straddling Napa and Sonoma counties, Di Rosa is a massive playground. Organized bird walks and art and nature hikes make use of the two-mile outdoor loop. Beyond the art and picnic potential, Di Rosa offers a palette-cleansing breath of fresh air between wineries. The admission fee ($20) offers self-guided access to the galleries and Sculpture Meadow.
Go for: an integration of art, design, food, and wine
RH Yountville, a Restoration Hardware venture, was conceived by award-winning architect James Gillam of Backen & Gillam, one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 architecture and design firms worldwide. The compound of courtyards includes outdoor living spaces connecting an indoor-outdoor restaurant, the historic Ma(i)sonry building, and two boutique design galleries with a collection of globally sourced artifacts, furnishings, textiles, and antiques.
The Ma(i)sonry building is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places; it was home to one of Napa’s first vintners in the early 20th century. It has been beautifully transformed into a two-story wine vault offering rare, limited-production wines from 18 Napa Valley vintners. Tasting reservations and gallery admission are free. Wine Vault Club memberships range from $250 to $1,000 per quarter.
Bonus: Napa Valley Museum
For more art in Napa Valley between wineries, stop by the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville, currently featuring a treat for film and photography fans: the first joint showing of photographs by Jeff Bridges and by Susan Bridges. Pictures by Jeff Bridges draws from his decades-long collection of candid photos taken on various movie sets, using the unusual Widelux camera. Inside Heaven’s Gate is Susan Bridges’s behind-the-scenes record of making the epic 1980 western, Heaven’s Gate, filmed on location in Montana.
Both run through April 30, 2023. Admission is $15; open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.