I was very surprised when I drove up to Clos Pegase. I was surprised that I had not made a more concerted effort to seek it out, considering the astonishing artwork and beauty of facilities.
Jan and Mitsuko Shrem’s story of their relative humble beginnings is very impressive – and what they subsequently built here in the Napa valley is even more impressive. Jan traveled to Japan in the mid-1950s on vacation. Falling in love with the country and a woman, Mitsuko, he stayed and began a modest publishing in Japan. That modest publishing house grew into a small fortune, enabling Jan to travel to Bordeaux in 1980 to study winemaking.
Within three years, he had purchased fifty acres of prime Calistoga real estate and an invocation of a Bacchic spirit. The facilities were built in the mid-1980s with the intent of housing the impressive art collection that the Shrems had amassed. With a reverent bow to the Greek temples, the edifice hearkens to the bleached white ancient temples but with a minimal cornice, negative space insets alluding to columns a single pillar in front which invites the visitor to a courtyard of additional pillars, and a color scheme slightly resembling orange and strawberry sherbet.
The grounds are filled with the Shrem’s collection of art. As you enter the facilities, a number of large sculptures greet the visit — from the whimsical giant thumb, set alongside working vineyards, to kinetic and a more classically Greek-oriented Herm. Also available within the grounds are picnic tables. While cheese and other picnic items are available within the tasting room for purchase, it is nice to know there is a spot amongst some engaging artwork where visitors can bring their own picnics.
The tasting room itself is also bedecked with a variety of modern and historical works. Behind the tasting bar is a tremendous scene of a Sybaritic bacchanal but several lighting units are decidedly modern with loops of folded glass cascading down from the ceiling. The room is large and inviting and also contains a two-story glass entryway, adequately showing off the impressive barrels in which wine is aging.
2004 Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay- Golden yellow in color, dark pineapple dominates the nose. Rich fig and floral qualities coat the mouth in a creamy offering. The finish shows some mineral qualities but the ending is long and luscious. $21.00
2003 Mitsuko’s Vineyard Pegase Circle Reserve Chardonnay – From Carneros, this lighter, lemony colored wine immediately displays lemon meringue qualities in the nose, subsiding to some depth of kiwi and faint pineapple. Soft entry blossoms with yellow floral tones and bright fruit. $24.50
2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest being a proprietary blend of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. Mostly green nose of bell pepper and chili pepper. Tight, chewy entry was a tad hot. Needs time. $32.50
2002 Pegaso – 44% Petite Sirah, 44% Zinfandel, and 12% Syrah. Opulent bouquet of blueberry, bacon, and dark spiced berry. Tight, hot mouth entry slightly disappoints considering the amazing nose. Perhaps it just needs more time as well. Unknown price.
2000 Graveyard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon – From Carneros. Erratic aromas of spice, green bell pepper, and minerals. Very bright, tight entry showing youth and green chili peppers. Apparently it is considered a good selling point as the pourer was encouraging in his description of the inclusion of pepper flavors. Very, very odd. $60.00
To their credit, I have heard very good things about their wine. I believe the weather may have been far too hot on the day of my visit to give the wine its justice and plan on going back when the ambient temperature is more comfortable.
Clos Pegase ~ 1060 Dunaweal Lane ~ Calistoga ~ CA ~ 94515 ~ 800-366-8583