I always feel like I need to dress up to go to Darioush.
Maybe it’s the winery itself, inspired by the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, with ziggurats guarding the gates and a phalanx of glowing travertine columns marking the main approach.
Maybe it’s the soaring tasting room, staffed by good looking people who also know their way around grape yields.
And maybe it’s the wines themselves, beautifully expressing the Napa Valley with vibrant viognier, rich chardonnay, lush merlot, splendid cabernets and more.
No matter the reason for me stepping it up sartorially, a visit to Darioush is an event.
And so is a wine dinner featuring Darioush. On March 22, Atlantis Steakhouse in Atlantis Casino Resort Spa is presenting six Persian courses paired with pours from the winery. The Persian dishes being served are offered in no other restaurant in Northern Nevada.
The dinner, $265 per person inclusive, celebrates the Persian heritage of the Farahi family, founders of the Atlantis; the Persian heritage the Khaledi clan, owners of Darioush; and the 6000-year history of wine making in Persia (now modern Iran).
Here’s an advance look at the pairings (no dressing up required this time).
Bites of green things
A reception with canapés begins the evening. Baguette rounds are swiped with Plugra butter, then hillocked with caviar. Iranians don’t top their caviar with sour cream or chopped eggs; instead, there’s a sliver of lime for a sour contrast to the salty roe.
The pairing? A Vesper-inspired cocktail made with quince syrup, quince being a traditional Persian ingredient.
A spread of “green things” takes the table next. There are fresh herbs, Chandler walnuts, eggplant dip, sheep’s milk cheese, Shirazi salad (diced cucumber, tomato, onion), and clay oven lavash arranged into different bites.
A lively fragrant ’20 Napa Valley Signature viognier matches the light fresh mood of the green things.
Deep dishes, deep wines
Jeweled rice is one of the glories of Persian cooking — a bed of basmati rice tinted with beet juice, then studded with pistachios, slivered almonds, orange peel, barberries and raisins, all to create jewel tones. The rice is plated with Persian Gulf-style sturgeon.
The ’18 Napa Valley Caravan cabernet sauvignon, fashioned with fruit from newer vineyards, accompanies the dish. This approachable wine is plummy, silky and round, with flecks of spice.
A duo of Persian stews touches down, one a vegetarian version with herbs, dried lime and kidney beans, the other a duck, pomegranate and walnut classic called fessenjan.
The deep flavors of the stews find their complement in the intense fruit and balanced tannins of the ’18 Napa Valley Signature cabernet sauvignon.
Golden saffron, flaky sweets
Lamb shank braised in precious saffron, joined by fava beans and steamed rice with a gust of fresh dill, is the final savory course. Its pairing partner: the ’18 Napa Valley Darius II cabernet sauvignon, a wine stuffed with black fruit that’s ready to be drunk now or laid down for aging.
Dinner finishes with Persian sweets: walnut cookies, chickpea cookies, rice cookies and flaky nazook pastries made using walnuts. Cardamom tea is the final pairing in this dinner worth getting dressed up.