Sculptures of all kinds, including a plane, are part of the Donum experience. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

If I had been allowed to, I might have spent the entire day at Donum Estate. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that about a winery until now.

Donum Estate is like no winery I’ve been to. It’s an experience; an experience that is not solely about the wine.

I knew about the sculptures. Photos on a website (this one included), though, don’t begin to capture the essence and grandeur of the art. Nor can photos truly capture how the multitude of pieces use the land to portray a greater depth.

Three rows of chimes are a melodic piece of art. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One of my favorites was Sonic Mountain; three circles of wind chimes in a eucalyptus grove. As the trees rustle from the breeze that blows in from the San Pablo Bay, the 365 chimes come to life, playing a unique melody every time they ring.

Sculptor Doug Aiken specifically chose this spot to create his musical and visual art.

I find vineyards captivating by themselves no matter the season. Sculptures the same. Combine the two, and, well, it’s almost like being on sensory overload. Almost.

Artist Jaume Plensa is known for his large heads like this one on the road to the tasting room at Donum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In late May I had the opportunity to visit Donum. Sue and I were wowed by the entire experience.

I first wrote about Donum when it acquired the highly regarded 52-acre Savoy Vineyard in Mendocino County last summer.

Earlier this year CEO Angelica de Vere-Mabray was featured in another North Bay Business Journal article of mine.

Donum is a relatively young winery by Sonoma County standards, having been founded in 2001. Mei and Allan Warburg of Hong Kong have owned it outright since 2011.

That was the year they established the Donum Collection, which is considered “one of the world’s largest accessible private sculpture collections.”

Potato causa goes well with the 2021 Carneros Chardonnay. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The winery’s website further says, “More than 50 monumental works, including open-air sculptures, are placed on the Donum Estate, with over a third being site-specific commissions. Throughout our 200-acre estate, each piece plays with scale, nature, and imagination. This evolving collection brings together a global community of artists, including works from leading practitioners from 18 nations, across six continents.”

It’s hard to imagine this was once a cattle ranch.

Daan Smeets, whose title is hospitality ambassador, is in the perfect job as this Sonoma winery.

Smeets regaled us with the history of the art pieces, information about each artist and other details. It was like a private, guided outdoor gallery tour.

Donum offers various tours which include being driven in a quad around the property to see many of the sculptures.

“The conical canopy is centered on a northern-oriented oculus and glazed with 832 colored, laminated glass panels depicting yearly averages of the four meteorological parameters at the Estate – solar radiance, wind intensity, temperature, and humidity.” (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While we were able to walk a little to some of the art, I could easily have spent the better part of a day doing so. Wine club members have more opportunities to stroll than general members of the public.

Plus, the winery was reworking the sculpture garden while we there with the intent by July to turn it into a sensory experience. Considering I left feeling like my senses were all stimulated, I can’t imagine what this new area will entail.

Tastings are by appointment. No driving in. You will be let in at the gate by giving your name. Upon arrival you are greeted outside with a splash of rosé in front of the Donum Home that was renovated in 2021.

More art is to be enjoyed here as well.

Artist Yue Minjun’s “manically laughing men” are 25 identical bronze contemporary Terracotta Warriors. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

After the driving art tour we had a private tasting—there are multiple locations on the property for tastings where you are never with others.

Donum specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While what they pour changes and was about to for the summer, we were treated to the 2021 Carneros Chardonnay, 2020 Three Hills Pinot, 2020 Carneros Pinot, and 2021 Home Ranch Pinot.

Being a vegetarian wasn’t a problem for chef. The small bites prepared specifically for the wines we were tasting were perfect. I love how wine changes with the food that is served. While I’m not likely to make any of the dishes presented—potato causa, onion soubise, chicken pate (tofu for me), or beef pastrami (smoked shitake mushrooms), we delighted in the nuances of the flavors of the food and wine. (Well, in retrospect, I probably would make the shitake dish if I had the recipe.)

It was fun to taste three very distinct Pinots side-by-side. The Home Ranch was my favorite—probably because it was bolder, heavier. That’s how I tend to like my reds. I left with a bottle of the Chardonnay as well.

And the land—well, you will just have to go to Donum to learn about regenerative farming and all the other sustainable practices they are implementing.

The entire experience was incredible. Relaxing, never rushed, not pretentious, but everything was high-end and first class. It really is like no other wine tasting.

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