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Art in Wine,Profiles,PS I Love You,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Writer,Winery

Quixote Winery, Where Carl Doumani Tilts at Windmills… and So Much More

Walking up the pathway to Carl Doumain’s Quixote Winery did more than live up to the images I had seen. It brought the magical whimsy all to life.

I got a deeper sense from this winery of what it purports to be ~ The Legend of Don Quixote. This supposition is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The experience brought me right back to one of my favorite stories, The Little Prince (French version: Le Petit Prince). Published in 1943, by the French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this charming story was Antoine’s most famous novella and remains of my favorite stories. The unexpectedness of witnessing in real life the winery’s Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser architecture reminded me of my most memorable lines in The Little Prince, “You don’t have to have a point to have a point.”

The winery’s got plenty of points, even though each one has rounded edges, like the “onion” above. His winery points don’t have to have one to have one, metaphorically speaking, so each one still does.

Is it a coincidence that Le Petit Prince also parallels this Petite Sirah icon? I doubt it.

I’m fascinated by Carl’s dream-come-true winery. How many among us can boast that we’ve spent 10 years perfecting a plan-to-reality business with the world famous Austrian painter, architect, and sculptor, Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt?

Visiting Carl was an imperative of my life. He’s one of the most iconic producer of Petite Sirah that I know. Each producer of Petite has a story, and I hold each to my heart… They all have a rhyme and a reason. Because of managing PS I Love You, I have very little time for those producers who aren’t part of this advocacy group. My guys keep me busy beyond belief… because I let them and because I have an uncontrollable passion. No complaints, here.

Carl is an independent man of great accomplishment, and not bothered by being part of anything, other than what’s right there in front of him… Quixote Winery, his wine brands, and Napa Valley. It was Carl who took Petite Sirah and crafted it in such a way that one writer said to me years ago, “There’s no benchmark for Petite Sirah, because it seems to be all over the place in flavor, texture, tannins. But, if there ever was a benchmark, it would be Stags’ Leap Winery.” It was Carl Doumani who crafted – as a proprietor who knew what he wanted – the Petite Sirah for which this writer was referencing.

Wait a minute… that writer just defined the benchmark, had he not?

That works well enough for when Carl owned Stags’ Leap, as he trained each winemaker with whom he worked wile there. This has a way of leaving a working formula for subsequent winemakers after he sold the Winery. With that selling, he kept 150 acres for himself – same contiguous land – and continues to make Petite Syrah the pretty much the same way in the same terroir. he’s kept his style and graceful rendition.

This spelling of Petite Syrah with a “y” is his spelling, BTW. I go along with what the TTB has decreed as a legal spelling; i.e., Petite Sirah with an “i,” for consistent marketing to a confused audience of trade, media, and consumer… All wondering, “what the heck?” It just helps us to market in a more understandable way, clearing away all the confusion. I’ve heard from Robert Brittan, David Bruce and Jeff Cohn, all of whom have spelled Petite Syrah with a “y,” that they’re doing it to honor the parent grape “Syrah.” I mentioned that to Carl, who said in his friendly, rascally way, “Nah… I do it because it’s prettier,” waving  his hand in the air creating the “s” in a filigree way.

[The above image is of Carl on the left, and Paul Hein on the right. Paul joined our meeting on this day, because Paul knew Carl from years before, and came along for the visit. Paul now is the proprietor of P.B. Hein Vineyards.]

I had to laugh… It’s a wonderful way to do business, with whimsy and flamboyance only ascribed to Carl Doumani himself.

Toward the end of our visit, Carl was aghast that I hadn’t asked him anything about his wine. I told him I didn’t have to, because I already knew he’s the quintessential icon. I can’t rewrite that story in a way that’s new and creative, nor would I want to. I came to learn more about the man behind it all.

He then handed me a bottle of his Quixote Petite and his personal copy of “Hundertwasser” by Wieland Schmied, published by Taschen, to take home with me. There you go… The kind of man that I’d only expect. I tend to give people books spontaneously, as I see their need for more learning. I hoard my books; however, I’m quick to share ones I’ve purchased, when it’s the perfect person at the perfect moment in time. Carl turned the tables on me.

As I voraciously poured through his personal copy, I realized the magnitude of the gift. I knew I couldn’t possibly take this from him; and yet he insisted, telling me in his mischievous way to “get out of the office, because it’s not a library.” I laughed out loud (again), because anyone who knows him knows that this was just “so Carl.”

[The above image was taken from the roof, looking down onto the courtyard below. Notice the grass in the lower right hand corner of this image. It’s the edge of the roof, not grass on the ground.]

I’m going to write about this winery’s architecture separately, because the images that go with this posting will also allow you understand better the dynamics of it all, including the grass and landscaping on his roof . This is as a unique tale to tell, as his winery is in its design.

Carl and I both tilt at our own separate windmills, and that was the draw… His independent way of doing everything is something I know all too well. The story that day wasn’t about the wine for me, because I already knew it’s the best of the best. The story for me was the man behind the desk with no computer sitting on it! (But he does have a Blackberry… Go figure!)

There will be follow-up to this one, because it’s so intriguing and I’ve got the shots to prove it.

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3 Responses to “Quixote Winery, Where Carl Doumani Tilts at Windmills… and So Much More”

  1. Carl Doumani says:

    Jo- Fun article – But I don’t have a Blackberry- it was just a cell phone- you have me mixed up with Obama.

  2. Jo says:

    Carl,

    That was an easy confusion… One great man for another.

    On another Website, many of my Petite Stories were collected under the title, “Carpe Diaz.” The Web site is from a total fanatic of Petite Sirah, called PSychos’ Path by Loweel.

    His lead in was the following:

    A nice article on PS Godfather Carl Doumani, currently of Quixote (which makes both the Quixote and Panza labels), and formerly of Stags’ Leap Winery. There’s some nice personal info on Carl, his influence on other winemakers, his personal generosity, his quixotic personality, coupled with beautiful shots of the winery’s unique architecture.

    http://www.psychospath.com/2009/01/carpe-diaz.html

  3. Jo says:

    It’s worth it to add the following to this blog entry, because Carl is reacting to anyone thinking that he’s the winemaker for his wines. Truth be told, when I asked him to be part of the first ever Petite Sirah Symposium, he asked to bring his winemaker along, because according to Carl back then, “I’m not a winemaker.” He’s a proprietor, which means he had a vision.

    Here’s his latest communication for clarification, which still leaves him as the Godfather, regardless, in my mind:

    Jo,

    I am not a winemaker. I did (and do) work with the winemakers to maintain a style that was developed by Lee Stewart in 1972-1973 and 1974.

    Any improvements in the wine quality were because of their intelligence, not mine.

    Thanks,
    Carl

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