Now Playing

The Winery That Turned Itself Into an Outdoor Art Museum

How an understated vineyard in Sonoma built a blue-chip sculpture park.

SLIDESHOW

Since taking over Donum Estate, Allan Warburg has installed a world-class collection of sculpture on the grounds, including King and Queen by Keith Haring.

(1 of 4)

Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei.

(2 of 4)

Contemporary Terracotta Warriors by Yue Minjun.

(3 of 4)

Artificial Rock No. 126 by Zhan Wang.

(4 of 4)

 

Read more of the New Sonoma Crush here.

 

Visitors can stroll past Anselm Kiefer’s life-size airplane. Then wander around the first spider sculpture Louise Bourgeois ever completed. They can stand in the center of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals, step right up to Keith Haring’s King and Queen, or get lost in a maze by Gao Weigang. More than 30 works by major international artists are on display here, but it’s not a museum or even a gallery. It’s a small-production winery where, thanks to a new art-obsessed owner, grapes and olives are no longer the only things in the fields.

When the Danish* billionaire Allan Warburg purchased Sonoma’s Donum Estate in 2011, he did so sight unseen. His brother had poured him a glass of Donum’s award-winning pinot noir one afternoon in Denmark, and he had been instantly enamored. He was also a keen businessman (he owns a constellation of successful fashion brands in China) and calculated that investing in a high-quality California wine producer was a wise short-term move. The rest is the stuff wine country fairy tales are made of: Warburg and a few partners purchased Donum with the intent of retaining and financially supporting its winemakers, chief among them Anne Moller-Racke, who founded Donum in 2001 and has been perfecting its pinot noir ever since.

The new owners planned to stay hands-off. Instead of nosing in on the winemaking process, Warburg wanted to bring his own passion to the property: art. And this wouldn’t be another tasting room hung with a few paintings—Warburg was thinking much bigger. “One day, with a glass of Donum in my hand," he says, "I realized how fantastic sculptures would look in the Sonoma landscape.”

Six years later, Warburg’s vision is nearly complete. A new visitors’ center by S.F. architect Matt Hollis opened its doors in September, and now Donum’s intimate, by-appointment-only wine tastings will also include a tour of the grounds. The final sculptures will be installed before the end of the year, and Hollis is currently working with the artists and a local startup called Detour to finish producing audio tours that visitors can listen to as they explore the grounds. “One plus one is not always two,” Warburg says. “If you take art, put it into a beautiful landscape, and at the same time enjoy it with a great glass of wine, the experience is much larger than if the three are enjoyed separately. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

*Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Warburg as Dutch.

 

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

Have feedback? Email us at letterssf@sanfranmag.com
Email Erin Feher at
efeher@modernluxury.com
Follow us on Twitter
@sanfranmag
Follow Erin Feher on Twitter at
@erinfeher