Artesa Winery – Napa Valley
How do you hide a 120,000 square foot winery on top of a hill? The answer lies at Artesa Winery.
Barcelona architect Domingo Triay is an illusionist, for despite the modest facade, entering the space is an experience of unexpected light, warmth and sweeping vistas. And the hidden winery? A tour reveals that it sits beneath you, carved into the hillside and naturally insulated from outside temperatures.
My first visit to Artesa was about 10 years ago, and it remains a frequent stop on my trips to the Napa Valley. The experience is most enjoyable when accompanied by a friend that has not seen the winery. After parking at the lower lot, your view is that of some interesting modern sculptural pieces, a lovely fountain and a somewhat daunting staircase that seemingly leads to blue sky – no hint at what lies at the top. The unusual channels of water running down both sides of the staircase lure you upward and onward.
As you approach the top, you realize that you are eye-level with reflecting pools on either side. The angular fountains on the left catch the eye first, spraying water out into the sunlight just perfectly. After resisting the urge to roll up your jeans and climb in (I am pretty sure it is prohibited), you notice the still pool to your right, with a singular sculpture rising out of it, drawing your eye past it to the first real glimpse of the fantastic views that are a part of Artesa.
You have made it up the stairs, but the winery entrance is anything but impressive – an entrance into a landscape covered mound. Angular windows peeking out on the left hint that something lies beyond, but you turn around again to get another view of the pools seemingly spilling out to the vineyards beyond. Perhaps the architect’s intent was not to draw attention to the winery design so that the extraordinary vistas of the Napa countryside could be fully appreciated.
Once inside, a concierge welcomes you to the colonnaded salon, where a glass or tasting of your choice can be enjoyed at the counter or at a table in the large space, with its high ceiling and warm finishes. But diagonal lines are often used to draw the eye, and it is impossible not to notice doors to a terrace begging you to take a peek outside. Of course you must oblige, and once again you are rewarded with spectacular views, this time to the south of the Carneros area with glimpses of San Pablo Bay in the distance.
Estate size (acres)
Winery opened (year)
Size of Winery (SF)
Back inside (most likely for more wine), other areas of the winery make themselves known. A large central atrium serves club members and features a sculpture of Madonna and child, a reproduction of an original in Spain. A latticed roof and reflecting pool provide a more contemplative tasting area for wine club members. Private tasting/dining rooms and a small shopping area fill out the space on the main level.
The winery was first opened in 1991 as Codorniu Napa and bottled only sparkling wines. Sales of bubbly declined and the facility was given a makeover and reopened in 1997 as Artesa, a name that comes from the Catalan word for “handcrafted”. Artesa is now a producer of many varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and more, with approximately 30% of production remaining in sparkling wine under the Codorniu Napa label.
As a producer of artisan wines, Artesa is entering a new era in 2015 with the appointment of Ana Diogo-Draper to replace Mark Beringer, who returned to his family’s vineyards. Diogo-Draper moved from her native Portugal to California in 2005 and is the first woman to hold the title of winemaker at Artesa.
Codorniu is the oldest wine making family in Spain and traces its history back to 1551 at a monastery in Montserrat, when it was the only location outside of France that had the secret to making champagne. At present, the company owns 11 wineries, with one in Argentina, one in the United States (Artesa), and the rest in Spain. Codorniu is the exclusive supplier to the royal family of Spain.
Art is a priority at Artesa. It is one of a handful of wineries that designate an “Artist in Residence” and features work from Gordon Huether on display and for sale. You can see his largest installation at the lower lot, consisting of the six sculptures around the fountain. These are made of fiberglass, resin & powdered aluminum and were installed in 1997. Huether is currently working on a large project for the expansion of Salt Lake City International Airport, his design can be seen here
The most striking sculpture is the large bronze by sculptor Marcel Martí that stands in the upper reflecting pool. Although the piece is untitled, concierge Scott advised that the form is that of a grapevine’s rootstock that a scion would be grafted onto. Martí (1925-2010) was of Catalan descent and spent most of his life in Barcelona.
Artesa wines may delight taste buds, but the winery is a feast for the eyes. I advise making it an early stop when the air is crisp and clear. Tours include a tasting of 5 wines and are a must for first time visitors. Reservations are not required but check the Artesa website for the current schedule.
What factors into your decision to either stop at or pass by a winery? Is it the reputation of the wine, the interesting architecture, the inclusion of art, or something else? Let me know in the comments below.
1345 Henry Road,
Napa, CA 94559
Accessible entrance at upper parking lot
Here I am having my Lucy moment at one of my favorite wineries. Something you just have to do once, although wearing white capris to a grape stomping wasn't a well thought out wardrobe choice.
Although I may not always be able to tell you the difference between a Malbec and a Mourvedre, there is no better weekend trip than one spent in wine country. So join the adventure as I explore California's wineries in search of interesting design and great visual experiences. Wine tasting will definitely happen, but will not be the main focus of my posts.
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