Consider the year 1551. Michelangelo is in Italy, chiseling the finishing touches on his last work, the Rondanini Pietà. In merry old England, Edward VI succeeds Henry VIII as king. And in the Spanish town of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, just west of Barcelona, Jaume Codorníu bequeathes his wine cellars, presses, barrels and vats to his heirs.
You’ve heard of Codorniu. It’s the popular sparkling wine with the artistic image. Today the Codorniu family has moved forward into the international still wine scene with the birth of the aptly named Artesa Winery, which owns 400 acres of planted vineyards on both sides of the Mayacamas Mountains (including Napa’s Carneros and Atlas Peak appellations, and in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley).
Recently I’ve had a chance to try some of their wine. Artesa (more about the story behind the name in a minute) has what they call a “multi-appellation strategy” meaning that they obtain grapes from the best appellations for growing each variety. For example, in the northern Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, the vineyard location is best for Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot in addition to Spanish Tempranillo. On the Sonoma Coast, they have 300 acres of land to producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Albarino.
The master alchemist at Artesa is winemaker David Dobson, who earned many accolades during his time at Rutherford Hill. At a recent press lunch to showcase the new vintage, Dobson walked journalists through the steps of creating a Bordeaux-style blend by giving participants a pipette (a straw-like utensil used in chemistry classes) and samples of their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
The Codorniu family made a considerable investment in both making great wine and contributing to the arts. Over a century ago, the Raventos family (Codorniu’s owners) commissioned a renowned architect to construct Codorníu Cellars, now a Spanish national artistic and historical monument. Codorníu also sponsored a turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau poster competition for leading 19th century artists.
Today the tradition continues with the work of Napa Valley based resident artist, Gordon Huether. For Artesa, Gordon creates works in a variety of media including glass, metal and canvas. But these words can not even begin to describe the awesome power of Gordon’s art, especially as it relates to the geometric shape of the winery’s architecture, and the way the art is viewed against the backdrop of the big, blue, open sky.
You will find Artesa wines available in wine stores, but also visit Artesa online and check out their wine club. Artesa favors its members with access and discounts on new releases, yet also offers a very active calendar of events. Members can prune vines and have lunch afterwards, attend Spanish dinners, luxuriate on Mexican cruises, and more. And if you are visiting the Napa Valley, visit the tasting room and enjoy wine and cheese on the sun-swept patio overlooking the vineyards, the gorgeous winery, and Gordon’s fabulous art.