“No, turn left! That’s River Rd.,” my tasting partner exclaimed as we both tried to figure out exactly where Zialena exactly was. Just as I was about to make that left, a little A-frame sat on the side of the road providing a much needed sign (literally) to head straight to get to the winery. And with that, we’ve arrived. Welcome to Zialena.
For all of the seeming trouble we had in the prior paragraph, it’s actually really easy to find the winery. Heck, you really can’t get lost in Alexander Valley. There’s about 4 main roads and the worst that can happen is you end up in Calistoga (ok, that might be the worst thing, as you’re in Napa; gasp!).
It’s not hard to see the winery once you have driven about an 1/8th of a mile. The modern looking sign sits all by itself at the end of the driveway. Around the sign sits nothing but soil waiting for someone to plant some vines in. The modern-looking sign was only a foreshadowing of the architecture that follows.
Turning off of the street and following the road, we came up to a building that appeared to be half Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and half J. Paul Getty center. I thought to myself, “Am I going to walk into a contemporary art collection or go wine tasting?” This is not your average winery for that matter. The grounds are, to say the least, minimal. More empty dirt circles the winery, almost begging for a Cabernet or Malbec to get planted. But enough of what wine could be planted, I’m interested in the ones that have already been picked, fermented, bottled, and are currently awaiting me in the tasting room.
Two sets of large glass doors flank either side of the tasting room. There was a little room adjacent to the main tasting room which had a small party already into their 2nd wine. Having no prior reservation, we just moseyed on up to the bar and awaited whatever came next.
The tasting at Zialena is split between two flights: the 1897 $15 flight and the 1931 flight for $25. As I had my tasting partner with me, we agreed to split flights so we can taste both. Both tasting options started out with a white, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay and then move on to 3 other reds.
What I liked about both tastings, each came with a storied past and a map that showcased where the grapes came from on the estate. My only issues with the map was I couldn’t seem to get my bearing of which way I was facing. Maybe it was noon and the shadows outside weren’t helping me figure out which way was north. I assume the Sauvignon Blanc I had didn’t help things. But directionally challenged aside, it was helpful to get a foothold of where the grapes were in relation to the property.
The tasting counter features a rustic sign with the name of the winery welded out of metal on the back wall. In addition, a jug wine from a bygone era could be found on the shelf. No, they can’t pour you the wine and it will probably a pale shade of vinegar to say the least.
For such a modern building, Zialena has roots that go back to the 19th century. It felt that with each taste of wine, I was presented with a history lesson of the winery and surrounding grapes. A great combination of both old and new.
Outside the tasting room sits a few tables with umbrellas. A freshly laid lawn compliments the outdoor seating along with a few plants laid out around the seating area. And beyond that was dirt and then grapes.
I felt with every turn I either saw something new, like a different facade of the building, or a new wine I hadn’t tried yet. The curiosity meter seemed to be peaking. I kept wanting to say the building felt out of place in the quiet Alexander Valley but I also like the new modernist twist the building had. Who’s to say this winery has to look like the next?
Both the wine and the winery itself are worth venturing out to. It’s visually a different look at how a winery should look. But then again, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The modernism of the building is a fun combination that is mixed with the rich history of the wine and the grapes on the estate. You’ll find a fun old/new combination that is Zialena winery in Geyserville.