As a music exec, Kashy Khaledi made a career out of bringing creative personalities together to bridge culture and corporate strategy for Universal Music Group, Google, and Mazda. In his first foray into the wine business, Khaledi has combined Californian midcentury aesthetics and style of winemaking with a modern, multimedia approach to create a Napa winery very much of the moment.
“Wine is alive and real. I would rather worry about Pierce’s Disease than piracy,” Khaledi says. “Also, there’s nothing more depressing than a creative executive over 40.”
As you turn off Highway 29 just north of Napa city proper onto the Oak Knoll property, Ashes & Diamonds’ two modular white winery buildings—designed by L.A.-based architect Barbara Bestor, who has also designed Beats by Dre’s headquarters, Intelligentsia coffee’s West Coast flagship, and the Palm Springs Hotel—seem to simultaneously emulate the rolling hills of the valley and leap out from them on a complex that feels somewhere between a Silicon Valley corporate campus and LACMA.
Accessed by a sunshine-yellow door and triple floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors which open onto a grassy area crisscrossed by paths (nicknamed the Quad), the rectangular hospitality building is crowned by a custom perforated, corrugated zigzag canopy which creates dynamic shade and an interplay of light and shadow over the course of the day.
Inside, a custom terrazzo bar and eclectic furnishings—a Jean Prouvé desk repurposed as a communal table, Knoll Saarinen lounge chairs in retro-color-pop yellow and purple, a vintage midcentury Cees Braakman sideboard, and scattered North African rugs—create a tasting room that feels like an elevated common room with a variety of places to sit and sip. The most striking features of the taller production building, just behind, are the circular windows set into the cobra-head-shaped first floor, which extends out over an enclosed VIP-tasting-cum-events room and a ground floor breezeway.
Bestor says she was briefed to create a serious production facility with capacity for 10,000 cases of wine per year, as well as hospitality spaces that felt like a comfortable living room recalling the midcentury-home-turned-museum Eames House in the Pacific Palisades.
“While there are nods to Albert Frey in the portholes and Donald Wexler’s folded plate roofs of the midcentury Palm Springs postcard fantasy, we aimed for a lighter and more current take fitting to the industrial nature of wine production and more residential scale of the hospitality,” Bestor explains. Khaledi knew Bestor from his first job, at the Beastie Boys’ record label, and the fanzine Grand Royal, where she was resident architect, and he says he admires her work’s “unwavering spirit of possibility and streak of rebellion.”
When an opportunity arose to buy the property in one of Napa’s most sought-after zip codes, Khaledi, whose father is the eponymous owner of the winery Darioush nearby, felt the aesthetics and mood of midcentury California were a perfect fit for the light-handed wines he loved from the era and wanted to remake.
“The midcentury era isn’t a gimmick for us. It was an era of lightness, optimism, and possibility,” he says. Ashes & Diamonds also pays lip service to Khaledi’s artistic influences. The name is taken from Khaledi’s favorite movie, a Polish film about life’s crossroads and the big decisions people make. The poem printed on each cork, by 19th century Polish poet Cyprian Norwid, is featured in the film in the form of graffiti.
Graphic designer Brian Roettinger, best known for art directing album covers such as Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail and Mark Ronson’s hit Uptown Special, was commissioned to create Ashes & Diamonds’ striking monochrome labels. Here, even viniculture has a collaborative, almost band mentality. Rather than hire one winemaker, Khaledi has signed two and gives them props for both their oenology cred and their taste in music. Steve Matthiasson—whose classic, restrained approach to winemaking won him Winemaker of the Year from Food & Wine and San Francisco Chronicle—enjoys skateboarding and punk rock by Minutemen and Dead Kennedys. When she’s not managing the vineyards or scrubbing tanks, Diana Snowden Seysses—alum of Robert Mondavi Winery, Ramey Wine Cellars, and Domaine Dujac in Burgundy—gets her groove on with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
How does Khaledi feel about his latest creative project?
“Now more than ever, as we’re mentally mutilated by an overabundance of information and ‘breaking news,'” he says, “I find solace in the notion of disconnecting to go outside and meet people in analog.”