Rutherford winery’s setting, wine, and hospitality make for a memorable occasion.
“To be the highlight of every guest’s visit to the Napa Valley” is the goal of Peju Winery, whose founders, Tony and Herta Peju, began selling wine out of their Rutherford residence’s garage shortly after departing Los Angeles in 1982. With a serene 30-acre setting and unfailing hospitality, that mission is accomplished daily at Peju (pro- nounced pay-ju), known for Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux-style wines from grapes grown on six estate vineyards.
The welcoming vibe begins the moment visitors pull into the driveway off Highway 29. Sycamores arch high overhead, directing the eye eastward to the tasting room and the ar- chitectural pièce de résistance, the copper-roofed Peju Tower. In 1981, before purchasing the Rutherford property and 22 years before the 50-foot structure was built, Tony commissioned a drawing of it that appears on all estate-bottled Peju wines.
Outside the tower, bronze and steel sculptures by Philip Dizick and works hewn from Carrara marble by Welton Rotz set an aesthetically pleasing tone. Rotz’s Harvest Dance, which incorporates a water element into its depiction of man and a woman rejoicing at harvest’s end, soothes as well as delights. Nearby, a willow tree shades Dizick’s Girl on a Bench, itself just steps from a koi pond that makes for a restful interlude before or after wine tasting.
The sense of a rarefied world set apart from the Napa Valley bustle intensifies upon entering the Peju Tower, where a 20-foot-wide Art Nouveau stained-glass window commands immediate attention. The premium Stained Glass Tasting Experience, offered weekdays except for Monday, showcases the five wines in the recently released Stained Glass Collection, which is sold as a boxed set. The bottles’ labels collectively re-create the window’s depiction of three Greek muses in a garden setting.
The Stained Glass Tasting, which debuted in late 2019, is one of several new reasons to visit Peju even if you’ve been here before.
Another popular offering is the Rutherford Dust Experience. An excellent introduction to the climate and soils of the Peju estate and the entire Rutherford appellation, the tasting takes its name from a famous statement by the legendary mid-20th-century winemaker André Tchelistcheff: “It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet.”
Peju is open daily from 10 to 6, its closing time an hour later than most of its neighbors. On a visit, you may see Herta Peju, who is still active at the winery along with daughters Lisa and Ariana. A sister operation, Calmére Estate, opened in Carneros in 2019. The focus at Calmére, a combination of the French words for “calm” and “sea,” is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, paired to perfection with stunning vineyard and San Pablo Bay vistas. Acclaimed winemaker Sara Fowler oversees the wines at both locations, where the gracious hospitality and art, landscaping, and views add up to a memorable occasion.
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Article By: Marisa McCann