Inside Look: Ashes and Diamonds, Napa Valley

Napa Valley may be known for its grandiose European-inspired wine estates, but when Kashy Khaledi set out to open a winery in the iconic region, his mind was on modernism. In 2017, Khaledi opened Ashes and Diamonds as an homage to Napa’s midcentury heyday. Taking notes from midcentury pioneers like Albert Frey, Donald Wexler and Ray and Charles Eames, the winery’s design is strikingly minimalist and modular, and its wines are classic California.

To bring his design vision to life, Khaledi partnered with Los Angeles-based architect Barbara Bestor, known for her work for Jamba Juice’s innovation bar, Beats by Dre HQ, Intelligentsia’s West Coast operations and BODE Palm Springs. “Aside from having a technical understanding of architecture, she understands the cultural nuances as well,” says Khaledi. “As we were developing the project, we often reminded ourselves that the devil lies in the details. Everything from a screw to a fixture to material to function—it’s all important, and the confluence of all the elements is what makes it work.”

For the wines, Khaledi enlisted two esteemed winemakers to helm production: Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses. Matthiasson, known for his viticultural work in Napa and radical approach to making West Coast wines, came on board first. “I find myself saying this a lot recently when talking about him: If you think he’s a talented winemaker, wait until you meet him. His kindness exceeds his talents, and he’s one of the most talented people I know,” Khaledi says, adding that the duo have worked on five vintages together so far, with a sixth in the works for next year.

With Snowden Seysses—who also currently works as an enologist for Domaine Dujac in Burgundy in addition to making wine for her family’s label—Khaledi’s work relationship stemmed from a friendship. “She has a humility to her, even though she’s whip smart and runs circles around some of the men in Napa, but you’ll never hear her say that, so I will,” Khaledi says. “Diana has taught me so much about wine and never in a patronizing way. I’m lucky to call her a friend, teacher and colleague.”

The intent is to make head-turning, low-intervention wines that stay true to California’s terroir. “Many decide to make a wine and then go look for the site. It’s the opposite for us. We find the site and then go make the wine,” Khaledi says, citing winemakers like André Tchelistcheff, Bob Travers of Mayacamas and John Daniel Jr. as inspiration. “Diana often says, ‘I don’t do winemaking.’ I love that,” Khaledi says. “What I interpret from that is she doesn’t feel the necessity to manufacture a wine to meet certain criteria.” Instead, variations in vintage are welcomed and the production process remains low-intervention. Together, Snowden Seysses and Matthiasson make single-vineyard releases and blends with varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and more.

For the A&D branding, Khaledi tapped into his background in and obvious affinity for music and pop culture. The bottle labels were designed by Brian Roettinger, a graphic designer who created album covers for the likes of Jay-Z and Beach House, among others. Khaledi has assembled an impressive team on the food and events side as well. The winery often hosts special events like a guest speakers series and pairing dinners with food devised by vice president of hospitality and culinary operations Emma Sears, formerly of Scribe Winery, and chef Ethan Speizer, formerly of Nuri (also located in Napa).

As the winery has settled into its skin, Khaledi says he’s been able to appreciate both the design and the winemaking more than ever. “I thank my staff and family for reminding me how much of a miracle it is that this winery even exists,” he says. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by some very lovely (and brutally honest) folks.”


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