Art & Mythology at Clos Pegase
The rich and convivial culture of ancient Greece provides many splendid images to accompany and express our celebration of Art and Wine and how they contribute to our joie de vivre. Here is some background information regarding the principle figures represented in our art and architecture.
Pegasus is, of course, our namesake. His father was Poseidon, known to the Romans as Neptune, god of the sea and earthquakes. One of Poseidon's many affairs was with the gorgon Medusa (famous for having snakes for hair). The hero Perseus cut Medusa's head off and out of her blood came Pegasus, the mighty steed ridden into battle by Bellerophon. Together steed and rider slew the terrible she-dragon Chimera with the divine bridle from the goddess Athena. The scene of Athena taming Pegasus is depicted by a sculpture in our cave theatre.
Pegasus is an apt symbol of the marriage of art and wine; it was he who unleashed the Spring of the Muses, which led to the creation of the goddesses of poetry, music, drama, painting, and basically all the arts. Pegasus landed on Mount Helicon, his powerful hooves ripping open the peak and releasing the waters within, which gave life to wine and art. The Spring irrigated the vines and wine was born; the Muses were "inspired" by wine and art was born. His divine presence, of course, permeates our premises as he appears on the label of most of our wines.
For over 1,000 years Bacchus was god of vegetation and fertility until he was promoted to god of wine; he was thought to inhabit the very wine we imbibe. He was pruned and left as a dead stump but he was always brought back to life, giving birth to the concept of the immortal soul. Among his emblems were a reed pipe and a theatrical mask, Bacchus having given birth to the theater as well.
Bacchus was the son of Zeus and Princess Semele, whom Zeus seduced in human form. His wife Hera plotted her demise with the prospect of having Zeus reveal his full divine presence. Since Zeus was the god of lightning, she was burned to ashes; but not before Zeus snatched Bacchus from her womb and sewed him up in his right thigh. That's why his primary nickname in Homeric epic is "The Twice-born One" because he was born a second time from Zeus' thigh.
The Henry Moore sculpture in the Grand Portico Entrance depicts Gaia, and no survey of the characters inhabiting and inspiring this temple to art and wine could ever be complete without tribute to her. It is no wonder that she is the first greeter of our visitors, for she is our ground, our center, our essence, our raison d'etre! In Greek mythology Gaia, which is simply the poetic form of the word for "earth" or "land" was one of the first beings spontaneously born from nothing. Gaia, momma earth, gave birth parthenogenically (born of a virgin-parthenon is Greek for virgin) to father sky, Ouranos (Roman Uranus) and the two of them mated and became the parents of Chronos (Roman Saturnus) and Rhea. Chronos and Rhea were the parents of Zeus and his siblings. She is the ultimate source of all the living and to her great homage is due.
What we consider to be our most important work from antiquity, our Renaissance patinated bronze fountain from 17th Century Italy, is situated in our shaded picnic area. Seated atop the upper section cast in the form of a Roman temple are four figures representing Bacchus as infants, each holding a dolphin; four Nymphs holding amphoras atop a circular cistern with applied lions' masks, and below, a grapevine case standard with four Muses cast in the round, each playing a different musical instrument.
The Architecture of Clos Pegase
Clos Pegase, the stunning example of Postmodernist architecture, was completed in 1987 after 5 long years of planning. The owners of Clos Pegase, Mr. and Mrs. Jan Shrem, wanted to create a world-class winery complex that would express their conviction that wine is an art form that should delight, illuminate, and surprise.
After selecting a site in Calistoga in the scenic northern section of the Napa Valley, the Shrems sought out a visionary architect to design their dream winery and residence. A discussion with the Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art produced the concept of an architectural design competition, which would collect the ideas of talented artists and architects. This competition commenced in May 1984 with the participation of 96 design teams. The esteemed competition jury, including vintner Robert Mondavi, narrowed the field to five finalists, and then declared the winner to be architect Michael Graves.
The Postmodern design of Clos Pegase is his style, which merges modern and ancient architecture with strong allusions to ancient Mediterranean themes, especially Crete. Graves describes the character of his creation as tending "to evoke memories of a European ancestry" and having a "timeless sensibility." The selection jury explained, "it embodies a celebration of the lifestyle that is unique to the Napa Valley."
Clos Pegase consists of both the winery and the owners' residence, which sits atop an adjacent volcanic knoll. The winery is divided into two sections: one for production and the other for the enjoyment of wine. Both are marked by beautiful entrance porticos, which are supported by massive pillars. According to House and Garden Magazine, Clos Pegase "has raised two ancient arts - architecture and winemaking- to a height that resonates with echoes of the ages" and is a must-see by anyone visiting the wine country.
The success of Clos Pegase is already legendary. According to the New York Times and the French government, Clos Pegase inspired the Chateau Bordeaux exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where it was the only foreign winery featured as an example to Bordeaux Chateaux.
We have many other works of art in our Visitor's Center as well on the winery grounds. We invite you to visit us and see not only the works of art pictured above, but also the many other pieces from Founder/Proprietor Jan Shrem's personal collection. We offer two guided tours daily, the first at 11:30am and the second at 2pm, for a small fee. We also have self-guided tours available for visitors looking to spend a little extra time visiting Clos Pegase. We look forward to welcoming you at the intersection where wine meets art!