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Darioush Khaledi's Persepolis-Inspired Winery


Source: PARSA Community Foundation

Famous for its idyllic vineyards dotted with French chateaus and Italian villas, Napa Valley is the last place one would expect to see a replica of Persepolis, the ancient and dazzling palace of the Persian Empire. Yet Darioush Khaledi has built just that, bursting into the winemaking scene with Darioush Winery, a homage to the winemaking legacy of Persia.

Darioush Khaledi

Already a successful businessman and prominent community member, Khaledi’s newest venture is one of his many successes in living the American dream. A multifaceted individual, he has been shaped as much by his experiences as he has by his aspirations.

As a young boy growing up in Shiraz with a father who made wine as a hobby, Khaledi would watch and often sneak sips of wine from the barrel. Though his fascination with winemaking never waned, he went on to study civil engineering. After receiving his MA from Polytechnic University in Tehran in 1968, he entered a career in construction.  In 1976, he immigrated to Los Angeles with his family. With only limited English skills and no prior experience working in the United States, Khaledi embarked on what has now become a familiar immigrant journey: he became an entrepreneur. He established Top Valu, one of the largest independent grocery store chains in Southern California. From that humble beginning, Khaledi is now Chairman and CEO of K.V. Mart Company, a chain of 23 markets with over $275 million in sales and 1,500 employees. A remarkable achievement in itself, but for Khaledi, he was just getting started.

Khaledi’s interest in winemaking continued to grow, and after several inspiring trips to Bordeaux, he founded Darioush Winery in 1997. The winery has been a resounding success, producing top rated wines and drawing large crowds who sip wine with the columns of Persepolis as a backdrop. Like many of the Napa Valley pioneers who built wineries as tributes to their homelands, he designed the winery after the awe-inspiring architecture of Persepolis, described by the great American architectural historian Arthur Pope as “a world of overwhelming splendor”. After six years of planning and construction, it opened in August 2004. Khaledi says that the design of the winery “allows us to shape how the world views Persians. We like to share a bit of our history and proud heritage with people who are unfamiliar with our culture.  We try to create a warm atmosphere with great Persian hospitality so that our guests can enjoy themselves to the fullest. What better way to teach them about Iran than through good wine and a welcoming environment?”

The winery is home to cultural events and Persian dances, music and arts are often featured. “We love to show off our sophisticated and rich traditions to an eager audience. We celebrate big events like Mehregan and Norooz,” says Khaledi. “Our Persian visitors are so touched. They take my hand and they say, ‘Thank you for bringing our home here.’”

Beyond promoting ancient values of hospitality and kindness to neighbors, Khaledi has engaged in several hands-on community building activities over the years, his philanthropic endeavors spanning both Northern and Southern California.  In 1982, he co-founded the Iranian-American Republican Party in an effort to encourage the nascent immigrant community to become involved in local politics. Khaledi served on the Board of Visitors of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and has also been instrumental in raising funds for computers and school equipment for underprivileged children in inner-city LA. Khaledi continues his service today by partnering with other winemakers to raise funds for Clinic Ole, a medical clinic for migrant farm workers without insurance, the only nonprofit of its kind in Napa County. Darioush Winery will also be generously donating wine to PARSA’s first annual fundraising gala this October.

From wine tasting in his youth to winemaking in his golden years, Khaledi has come full circle. “When you want something badly enough, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it,” says Khaledi. His determination inspires an entire generation of fellow immigrants to take care of their own and invest in the larger community.  

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Darioush Winery photos by Ali Moayedian

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