There is simply no better name for this project: Art House symbolizes the life work and lifestyle of John Bonick and Dona Kopol Bonick.
Being a big fan of their wines for years, we couldn’t resist a recent invitation to their house last week.
The grounds are simply surreal. The couple acquired an eight-acre piece of land in Carneros is 2002 and managed to create magic that reflects their wines and countless projects.
The property has a rich history, from housing an Indian reservation a while ago to having vineyards back in the 1800s.
The layout is ideal for the gardens that include a bamboo forest, flower paths, orchards, their charming home and a three-acre vineyard dedicated to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
John and Dona met in Chicago where Donna grew up. In 1980, the couple made San Francisco their home where they flourished in their fields. John took a position as a wine writer that led him into an editor job for Beverage Industry News.
Dona found a calling in the photography realm, which has opened countless doors in her life.
“I remember the first Auction Napa Valley, I was tasked with photographing the event. It was like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Donna said. Like this, there are a number of memories that are best told over a glass of wine dining al fresco among their vines.
The couple relocated to the Napa Valley in 1989 where they have created a tremendous group of friends that grows every day.
John, an excellent painter, has now paintings featured country-wide and finds himself creating pieces that reflect their personality.
Following their passion for all art forms, they inevitably found wine and eventually they started their own label.
Dona and John reached out to their friend, neighbor (and now family since his daughter married their son), Bob Mueller from McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery. Bob and his wife Karen share a lot in common with the Bonicks, including a passion for art, friends and life, so it was a natural fit.
Bob’s wine history dates to his infancy where he worked at his family’s farm growing grapes in Rutherford. He found a love for wine that led him to work with Robert Mondavi and his eponymous Robert Mondavi Winery and then at Opus One while founding McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery in 1989.
Art House wines are thought-evoking and carry a sense of place with a playful elegance very much like John and Dona.
During our recent visit, we tasted their 2016 Art House Pinot Gris Los Carneros ($30) an excellent homage to this Alsatian/Northern Italian varietal that has many faces depending on terroir and style of production.
Their Pinot Gris interpretation is full of life and complexity with a golden tone, a bountiful realm of white flowers ranging from mandarin blossom to almond blossoms with a zesty citrus note driven by Meyer lemon and layers of stone fruits that resolve in a mineral cornucopia resembling chalk and limestone.
We were presented with an ideal pairing for a summer day, a selection of local cheese and crackers that made for an exceptional greeting.
Walking through their gardens, we enjoyed their 2016 Art House “The Breeze” Rosè Los Carneros ($30), a generous and inviting salmon-hued wine that exhibits a festival of rose petals, plum blossoms, fresh farmers market cherries and watermelon rind. As if it was planned by nature, we picked a couple of perfectly ripe figs from one of the trees, which made for an indulgent treat.
We later headed to a whimsically painted picnic table situated between the orchards, vines and John’s painting studio and enjoyed a lively conversation enhanced by a side-by-side tasting of their current Pinot Noir offerings.
The 2013 Art House Pinot Noir Los Carneros ($60) with a dense, dark core ruby core, aromas led by steeped red roses and violets. Flavors were led by juicy plums, cola and winter spice with a bold and satisfying finish full of vanilla and pepper.
The counterpart served was the 2014 Art House Pinot Noir Los Carneros ($60) an enticing light ruby with hints of brick color scheme and aromas of dried bramble, lilacs and plum, this wine showed an old-world approach dare I call it “Burgundian.”
Mystical and exotic layers of black fruit, fresh and dried herbs and turned soil turned into a mouth-watering party full of layers and a lengthy finish. This wines were effortlessly complemented by a house-made heirloom tomato salad, corn in the cob and smoked pork ribs from the neighboring Stanley Lane Smokehouse.
Truly an experience that will resonate for years to come. as John and Dona say “Live Artfully.” Cheers!