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Clos Pegase Winery and vineyard.

Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga

By Published On: August 17th, 2023

This Mediterranean-inspired estate expresses wine as an art form to delight, illuminate, and surprise.

Art, architecture and award-winning estate wines. These are the elements that make Clos Pegase in Calistoga one of the Napa Valley’s most intriguing destinations.

Among its many accolades, the winery is credited by the French government for inspiring the Chateau Bordeaux exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where it was the only foreign winery featured in comparison to Bordeaux Chateaux.

Clos Pegase Winery tasting room interior.
Tasting room. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

Clos Pegase was built by visionary architect Michael Graves, whose nod to ancient, Mediterranean design is heralded as “America’s first monument to wine”. It was designed in two separate sections: one for wine tasting and one for production, with impressive pillars and an open roof forming a grand portico entrance.

Clos Pegase Winery architecture and vineyard view from inside winery.
Vineyard and Mountain View from winery. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

With one of the largest wine caves in the region, visitors can taste in the cool environs of the 20,000 square foot cavern dug into the property’s volcanic rock hillside.

The cave is illuminated by candles and features a series of alcoves that house carefully curated art pieces from the Shrem family collection.

A romantic tasting room is housed in the Cave Theatre and is a popular venue for weddings.

Clos Pegase Winery cave with soft lights and wine tasting room.
Softly lit wine cave. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

The estate also features a cypress-lined courtyard with twinkling lights, reminiscent of a European garden.

The Tastings

There are a couple unique tasting options at Clos Pegase, with the cave experiences at the top of the list.

The Connoisseur Cave Tour & Tasting takes visitors to the vineyards and through the gardens and grounds, then indoors to see the production area before entering the candle-lit cave for a sensual pairing of current release and library wines with carefully curated appetizers.

Clos Pegase Winery cabernet and cheese plate.
Wine tasting. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

The Picnic Lunch experience offers guests a picnic box for two adults that is prepared by the popular Napa Valley caterer Tre Posti and includes local and seasonally inspired foods paired expertly with Clos Pegase’s wines. Wines can be purchased separately by the glass or bottle and enjoyed picnic style on the grounds.

The Wines

Clos Pegase grows 11 grapes varieties in its three estate vineyards across 410 acres.

The Tenma vineyard is on 40 rugged acres in the Mount St. Helena foothills, yielding world-class Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for Clos Pegase’s flagship Hommage Cabernet Sauvignon.

Clos Pegase Winery Tenma vineyard.
Tenma vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two of the varietals grown in the 365 acre Mitsuko’s Vineyard (named after founder Jan Shrem’s late wife) in the Los Carneros appellation. These varietals thrive on the cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay that make for a slow, balanced growing season.

Clos Pegase Winery pinot noir.
Pinot Noir from Mitsuko’s Vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

Another section of the vineyard has soil perfect for a unique blend of Merlot clones and the portion of property known as Graveyard Hill has the kind of rocky, well-drained soil and sun exposure ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon.

The smallest of the three estate vineyards is the four acres of wines planted next to the Clos Pegase winery. The Applebone vineyard is dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the French Dijon Clone 191, known for its small and concentrated clusters of high-quality fruit.

Dense plantings along with a specialized rootstock keep the vines in balance.  

Clos Pegase Winery's Appleton vineyard.
The Applebone vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

History

Clos Pegase was founded by Jan Shrem and his wife Mitsuko, who purchased the Calistoga property in the early 1980s as both their hilltop residence and a place where visitors could enjoy fine wine and the family’s extensive art collection.

Clos Pegase Winery's Friendship Bench contemporary sculpture.
“The Friendship Bench” is a functional bench, but also a contemporary sculpture. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

Their dream was to celebrate wine as an art form, and in 1984 they teamed up with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to create an architectural design competition for the winery.

Ninety-six design teams competed in the process and a jury of experts picked the winning design by architect Michael Graves, saying “it embodies a celebration of the lifestyle that is unique to the Napa Valley.” Construction was completed in 1987.  

Clos Pegase Winery exterior with cypress trees in front.
Winery design by architect Michael Graves. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

The Winemaker

Robin Akhurst’s winemaking style has roots in the many countries in which he’s lived and studied his craft.

Growing up in Scotland, he turned a degree in environmental science into a lifelong passion that has included work as a sommelier in Edinburgh, wine sales in London, winemaking in New Zealand (while earning a graduate degree in viticulture and enology) and eventually taking a harvest position in the Napa Valley in 2009.

Clos Pegase Winery's winemaker Robin Akhurst.
Winemaker Robin Akhurst. Photo Courtesy: Clos Pegase Winery.

Under the mentorship of Thomas Rivers Brown, Akhurst created wines for Schrader Cellars, Maybach and Rivers Marie, eventually crafting the Envy wines and working as assistant winemaker to Mike Smith for the celebrated Carter Cellars Wines. He became the winemaker at Clos Pegase in 2016.

With its combination of heralded wines, candlelit caves, engaging art, architecture and gardens, Clos Pegase is one of the north Napa Valley’s most visited wineries. Even House and Garden Magazine calls Clos Pegase a must-see destination in the wine country.

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