A weekend getaway to Wine Country need not be just about wine. Nurture your love for architecture and design at these world-class wineries—because really, why not have your chardonnay in an authentic medieval-style castle?
A Modernist's Delight: Odette Estate
A fresh addition to Wine Country, the chic new Odette Estate Winery—a venture between San Francisco composer/philanthropist Gordon Getty, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and winery manager John Conover—is bringing art, style, and sustainability to the Stag's Leap district. Designed by Architect Juan Carlos Fernandez in 2012 and built with such modern materials such as 98 percent renewable steel, the LEED Gold–certified winery has solar panels, a trendy living roof, and a sleek aesthetic.
Under winemaker Jeff Owens, Odette produces two labels: Odette Estate wines include single-grape chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon made from grapes grown exclusively in Stags Leap; and Adaptation—chardonnay, petite sirah, and cabernet blends. Soft lighting and a warm hues make Odette's tasting room a romantic spot for dates. // Open daily by appointment from 10am to 4pm; tours ($40–90 per person) include a tasting and lunch; 5998 Silverado Trail (Napa), odetteestate.com
The Stuff of Fairy Tales: Castello Di Amorosa
The drive up the hill to Castello Di Amorosa feels like the cinematic opening shot of your typical old-fashioned Disney movie, where stretches of puffy clouds and green trees surround a majestic medieval castle. And in fact, this castle is kind of the real deal. Owner Dario Sattui spared no expense in the 15-year buildout of his regal nod to the Tuscan-style castles of the 13th Century, even going so far as to employ authentic materials and construction methods of the period.
Italian artisans handcrafted all the ironwork and antique tiles, and the bricks we now see in the castle's five turrets were brought over from Europe. The place even has hand-painted frescos, a torture chamber for naughty winemakers who get caught drinking the merch (just kidding), and, you guessed it, a mote. Great care is also taken here in crafting the Italian-style wines: The chardonnay—made with fruit that is harvested at night to ensure the grapes arrive cold—is particularly noteworthy. // Admission is $35 and customized tours are $80; open 9:30am to 6pm March through Oct., and 9:30am to 5pm Nov. through Feb.; 4045 St. Helena Highway (Calistoga), castellodiamorosa.com
Post-Modern Marvel: Clos Pegase
Back in 1984, architect Michael Graves (yep, the same Graves who designed that quirky tea kettle you got at Target), won a competition to design the Wine Country estate that, three years later, would become Clos Pegase, a one-of-a-kind chateau that marries ancient and modern architectural styles for a touch of whimsy in signature Graves fashion. His design was so well received that Clos Pegase inspired a 1989 exhibition at the Center Pompidou in Paris, which explored the aesthetic, commercial, and historic roles of the traditional chateaus in Bordeaux; the Calistoga winery even got the seal of approval from France to be designated as the only Bordeaux chateau outside of the country.
In 2015, Clos Pegase commissioned the beloved horticulturalists at SF's Flora Grubb Gardens to design the drought-tolerant Heritage Garden and today, thanks to winemaker Richard Sowalsky, Clos Pegase is also known for its crisp sauvignon blancs to opulent chardonnays. // Tastings ($20-30) cave tours ($60, reservations required) are available daily from 10:30am to5pm; 1060 Dunaweal Ln. (Calistoga), clospegase.com
Farmhouse Chic: Ram's Gate
One of the first stops on the way into Sonoma County, Ram's Gate has a prominent hilltop location that hints at its prestige design. The contemporary farmhouse, a popular spot for events, was designed by Top 100 architectural firm Backen Gilliam & Kroeger and lures us in again and again with warm interiors by SF's own interiors savant, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. The whole place feels torn from the pages of Architectural Digest, with an old-meets-comfortably-new style and cozy ambiance for sipping a complex chardonnay or a bold pinot noir.
Large garage doors create a seamless transition from the inside tasting bar to the outdoor patio—be sure to make a reservation for picturesque picnic by the pond. // Tastings ($40-200) are available 10am to 6pm Thursdays through Mondays by reservation only; 28700 Arnold Dr. (Sonoma), ramsgatewinery.com
Mountain Escape: Lokoya
After 20 years of searching for the perfect location, the Jackson Family finally acquired a 77-acre vineyard and winery estate, high above Napa Valley on Spring Mountain. The brand new Lokoya winery focuses on making four unique cabernet sauvignons from four of Napa Valley's most celebrated mountain appellations: Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and Diamond Mountain. Winemaker Christopher Carpenter has been crafting these wines since 2000 to reflect the individual characteristics of each mountain. Meanwhile, renovations are well underway on the winery with Howard Backen of Backen & Gillam Architects, recently named one of the Top 100 Architects in Architectural Digest, at the helm. Backen is working with up-and-coming interior designer Matthew Heinrich to highlight the original details of the European-inspired mountain top castle. The design of the winery is complex with the standout star being the structure of the building itself. Backen's approach to creating the perfect mountain top castle was "opening up the space to show all of the structure and the views, preserving the symmetry and center axis, hiding all the required infrastructure, and expressing the existing stone and concrete materials with dramatic lighting..." Small details, like the gothic windows have been emphasized creating a timless atmosphere that leaves you wondering what world you are in. // Opens November, appointment only, 3787 Spring Mountain Rd. (St. Helena, lokoya.com
French Pedigree: Domaine Carneros
In the late 1970s, Claude Taittinger, of the French family behind the famous Champagne Taittinger, began his quest for a worthy American counterpart, and his search led him to a 138-acre parcel in the heart of Carneros. Today, the Domaine Carneros chateau, inspired by the 18th Century Chateau de la Marqueterie in France, stands as an elegant homage to the legacy of Taittinger.
Designed by Napa's Valley Architects, the luxe maison—with an opulent staircase, elegant salon, and impeccable gardens—is a grand place to take visiting out-of-towners for a fancy flight of sparklers. When you take a glass of the 2008 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs out on the terrace, you're guaranteed to feel like royalty. // Open daily 10am to 5:30pm with three guided tours each day by appointment; 1240 Duhig Rd. (Napa), domainecarneros.com
King of the Valley: Chateau Montelena
The 1976 Judgment of Paris made Chateau Montelena a household name when the winery's 1973 Chardonnay won first place in a blind tasting among a panel of French wine connoisseurs. (You may have seen a retelling of the American coup in the movie Bottle Shock.) But less is said of Chateau Montelena's architectural bona fides—the English Gothic–style castle, designed and built by the original owner, A. L. Tubbs, in 1888, has super-thick stone walls (three to 12 feet) that act as a natural insolation from the elements. This, combined with its hillside location, regulates temperatures at the winery, beneficial in making high-quality wines.
Wandering around the estate, it's easy to feel like you've slipped out of time and place, with the gorgeous Chinese garden and Jade Lake offering a quiet respite from the rest of Napa. Chateau Montelena's chardonnay is still legendary and lovely as ever—none of that buttery, over-oaked business that gives Napa chardonnays a bad name—and the cabernet sauvignon is also well worth a glass. // Open daily from 9:30am to 4pm; 1429 Tubbs Ln. (Calistoga), montelena.com
The VIP Room: Opus One
it's an Egyptian pyramid! No, it's a spaceship! No, it's Opus One, uber-contemporary yet utterly low profile winery designed to award-winning acclaim by the architect Scott Johnson. Johnson devilishling combined Roman-style arches, a postmodern corkscrew staircase, California redwood, and stainless steel for a striking study in juxtapositions all set amid cream-colored Texas limestone.
In the salon, 18th Century Italian opera chairs face contemporary chenille and suede seating, and brightly glazed new ceramics line a 15th Century limestone mantle. Once you're done thoroughly admiring the building, you'll be so impressed that you'll be ready to pop for the pricey Cabernet tastings, which are best enjoyed outside in the central courtyard. // Tastings ($75-125) are available by appointment daily from 10am to 4pm; 7900 St. Helena Highway (Oakville), opusonewinery.com
Venetian Wonder: Del Dotto
Wine lovers with an interest in history may want to steer toward Del Dotto's original estate (1055 Atlas Peak Rd.), which is home to the second oldest wine cave in the valley, dug in 1885; the winery there has been lovingly restored by owners Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto. But the second location of Del Dotto, situated in stylish St. Helena, is the real architectural beauty. The grand Venetian-style estate is adorned with crystal chandeliers and ancient tiles that detail the history of winemaking. The caves at the St. Helena location are anything but dark and gloomy, lined with Italian marble and dramatic lighting. And in case you thought the cave was just for show, know that Del Dotto has an extensive barrel aging program cranking out bold wines that are unique in flavor. The marble pillars and Roman arches could make this space overwhelming but we think it's just enough. // Tasting ($45) and tours are available by appointment daily from 10am to 5pm; 1445 St Helena Hwy. (St Helena), deldottovineyard.com