My Taste3 experience began early last Sunday morning, when Margrit Biever Mondavi bought me a cappuccino. We were standing at the cafe counter inside Copia, looking for a caffeine fix to start the day. The woman behind the counter explained that they weren't open yet, but that she would make the drinks for us anyway. Margrit handed her a bill, waving aside my money with a shake of her regal head. We huddled over our cups with Katrina Markoff and Alex and Aki, chatting about which tours we were taking later that morning.
Magrit was leading a tour inside the studios of several Napa Valley artists; Katrina, Alex and Aki were all going on a tour of the French Laundry; I was headed to Quixote Winery.
As we went our separate ways a few minutes later, I thought: this is going to be an amazing three days.
Out in the parking lot, I climbed into a small van along with several other people, thrilled to see the friendly face of Elise from Simply Recipes, and we set off for Quixote. A man in a Panama Jack hat sat to my right; as the bus hummed along, he occasionally pointed to a building and made a comment about something that was happening there - a new owner, a feud, an interesting wine. When I finally asked his name, he introduced himself as Paul Franson, writer and author of NapaLife. I wished I could have sat beside him longer and listened to some of his insider stories.
Situated on a narrow winding road off of the Silverado Trail, Quixote Winery suddenly appears around a bend like a child's fantasy drawing come to life. The walls curve and dip; colorful tiles meander across the adobe-colored walls. At the far right, a gold onion dome winks beneath the sunlight. Most strikingly, the building seems to grow out of the landscape; the Stags Leap Palisades rise up in the background like a natural cradle, creating a visual feast of sumptuous curves and random textures.
The eight of us were given a personal tour by Carl Doumani and Pamela Hunter. Though they must have told the story of the winery's genesis many times before, their enthusiasm made it seem as if this was the very first time. Carl wore a brightly printed shirt, as if to match the colors of the building, and his eyes shone as he pointed out significant architectural details, from the sod roof to the mismatched windows.
We sat down to lunch in the dining room and feasted on creamy nettle soup (served cold, mmm!), juicy-tender lamb and spring vegetables while they regaled us with tales about Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the idiosyncratic Austrian artist whom Carl pursued for years and who finally agreed to design the winery. Chris Colin, the New York Times writer who penned a fabulous story about the winery in February, sat next to Carl and confessed to being "obsessed" with Hundertwasser. Chris told us how the artist notoriously showed up in his birthday suit whenever he felt like it, and how he believed that living with bright, vivid colors would improve your physical and mental health. I loved his notion that art was not a luxury, but rather an essential element of health and happiness.
In between sips of Quixote petite syrah and nibbles of cheese and strawberries, Pamela Hunter shared a little bit about her work with the Oxbow School (I want to go to the Summer Studio!), and we discussed whether eating well could be done on a budget and the intersection between art and food.
Sitting here at my desk, nearly a week later, I'm finding it difficult to convey the intimacy of the afternoon, and its uniqueness. It wasn't just about food, or wine, or art, but rather the convergence of all three, plus more besides.
Which is why Taste3 was so special ~ it was art and music and science and chocolate, all wrapped up in three delicious days. After the weekend, when I have a chance to slow down and review my notes and collect my thoughts, I'll write a bit more about it.
In the meanwhile, Google Friedensreich Hundertwasser and see where it takes you...
Don Quixote: The pen is the tongue of the mind.