di Rosa Preserve

I must confess a bit of shame. For over three years, I drove by the di Rosa Preserve and never stopped. You see, from the road, all I saw were what looked like cardboard sheep, strategically placed on a hillside by the parking lot, and an aluminum-siding building far too industrial to house any "worthwhile art." Yes, I am ashamed… I so it was with complete awe and astonishment that my Art Partner, B, and I set out for their two-hour tour. There are a number of tours available; from a simple one-hour Introductory tour to a far more extensive, two-and-a-half-hour Discovery tour (only available on Saturdays). As it was a Thursday for us, the best we could do was a two-hour Discovery tour which I certainly anticipated as sufficient as I tend to experience visual overload after about two hours.

What could most definitely NOT be anticipated was the shear magnitude and volume of art which exists at the Preserve. In my meager photo slide show, be aware that the Preserve does not allow photography inside galleries. Only photographs of those sculptures which are exterior to the buildings are permitted. The tour guide is a well-educated docent, eager to offer historical context to the establishment. In short, Rene di Rosa, who worked for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, purchased some "farm land" in the Carneros region of the Napa county. That farm land became viable and lucrative vineyards for the burgeoning wine industry which enabled Rene to amass an uncomparable collection of Northern California artists’ works. The 53-acre estate contains a number of buildings for the collection, site-specific installations, as well as dozens (if not hundreds) of sculptures set amongst the foliage and landscape.

Besides the addition of constructed gallery space, the tour includes access to the di Rosa’s private house. Here one can see how Rene and his wife, Veronica (an artist in her own right), filled their life and living quarters to the brim with artwork. So extensive was their obsession, that multiple large paintings are even mounted on the ceiling of their French-built stone house. The true downside of the tour is the lack of time compared to the massive amount of art which exists. The docent has a tight time schedule to get the group through the multiple buildings and site-specific settings in the allotted time. Quite frankly, there is simply too much to see and take in and were I to live in the area again, I would gladly join just to have frequent access to the over 1,600 works of art by celebrated likes of which include Roy de Forest, Robert Hudson, Paul Kos, Viola Frey, and Mildred Howard.

Reservations required

5200 Carneros Highway 121
Napa, California 94559

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