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Quixote winery's golden dome

Carl Doumani's offbeat Quixote Winery in the Napa Valley, near San Francisco, flaunts a huge gold-leaf onion dome, a startling array of brightly-coloured ceramic tiles, and a grass-covered roof. That sounds just like the famous public toilet in Kawakawa, New Zealand, and the newly-opened Green Citadel in Magdeburg, East Germany.

Yes, all three buildings were designed by that quirky Austrian architect and artist, Frederick (or Friedensreich) Hundertwasser, whom we wrote about in our November edition.

"Quixote Winery is Hundertwasser’s only building in the United States," says its 72-year-old owner, Carl Doumani, in an article on his website. "Has modern man inadvertently transformed wine, a beverage of consummate pleasure, into an absurdly serious pursuit?

"Deciding that this was indeed the case, we determined that the architecture for Quixote Winery should combat all such notions and devote itself to uplifting the human spirit.

"This decision led to discussions with many architects and, ultimately, to traveling a continent away to find Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), a delightfully witty Viennese artist, architect, philosopher and environmentalist. Hundertwasser devoted his life to the celebration of man's zest for adventure."

Doumani himself seems to have a similar outlook. Last April, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story about him, headed "Lovable rogue: Carl Doumani has an uncanny knack for getting into just the right amount of trouble," written by Thom Elkjer, wine editor for WineCountry.com.

Describing Doumani's long and successful business career as a restaurant owner and property developer, Elkjer said that at one stage Doumani founded "an all- male lunching and carousing confederation" called the Gastronomic Order of the Nonsensical and Dissipatory (GONADS).

Back in New Zealand, where Doumani's eccentric architect spent his last 20 years, a Hundertwasser-style house has been offered for sale. It's next door to Hundertwasser's old home, and is owned by Tony and Diane Achtzener who, like the artist/architect, migrated from Europe to settle in New Zealand.

"In 1998, after striking up a friendship with Hundertwasser, they decided to extend their home and used a lot of his principles for inspiration," Graham Hepburn wrote in the New Zealand Herald.

"This wing not only has a grass roof and a breathable adobe brick wall but also features a lot of the trademark Hundertwasser asymmetry in the balustrades and the tiling of the floors."

The price? Just $NZ1.28 million ($US902,486).

 

Quixotic: impractically idealistic or fanciful. - Dictionary definition.

Don Quixote has long been one of Carl Doumani’s favorite literary characters. He read Cervantes' book as a young man and loved its imaginativeness and sense of the absurd.

Carl’s friends somehow found out about his fondness for Don Quixote. They started giving him special editions. Before he knew what was happening, he had an entire shelf crammed with copies. Statues, figurines -- it was threatening to turn into a collection.

He decided to add one more Quixote to it.

The ridiculousness of Don Quixote’s enterprise is part of its charm. When Quixote charges at the windmills, believing them to be mighty enemies, he is simultaneously ludicrous and magnificent. He fights them because he thinks they must be fought, even though his chances of winning are nil. Quixote Winery is a tip of the hat to that spirit.

Noble but nutty. Kind of like making wine.
- Quixote Winery website

 

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Story first posted January 2006

Copyright © 2006

Eric Shackle

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