This article has been a long time in coming, several months in fact. But when you are trying to tell the story of wonderful, kind, multi-talented people, you sometimes do not know where to begin, both in story and images.
I first met Dona and John Kopol Bonick when I came to stay at their lovely vacation rental cottage in the middle of a magical garden (yes, the one in the image below) at the beginning of this year. That would be really the beginning, as in January 2. I was planning on staying three months, and both my Boyz and I loved it so much we stayed for five. Now, after a month in Carmel and one in Marin, we are back for two more, till the end of September. We will very likely be back again, as we feel at home here, embraced by the garden, and by Dona and John’s genuine open friendliness and love.
Both originally from Chicago, Dona and John are talented professional artists. Dona is an accomplished and award-winning photographer, whose images have been published in several national newspapers as well as numerous wine publications. John is a photographer, but also a painter and sculptor of powerful abstract pieces, which he creates in his studio by the vineyard and are featured in various permanent exhibits and prestigious private collections.
Since sometimes art runs in the family, and in this one it most certainly does, their sons Dylan and Max are following in their parent’s footsteps. Dylan’s art is street-inspired and expressed through photography as well as custom made and painted surfboards, which he creates at his home on Maui. Max’s art is music, particularly jazz, expressed as a multi-instrumentalist and composer. Max is currently attending the Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, and I have had the pleasure of hearing him play one afternoon right here on my porch.
The family art came together a few months ago in an exhibit titled ‘Generate: Four Artists, Three Mediums, Two Generations, One Big Show’, at Mondavi Winery (above) in Oakville. Alas, I was not there for the opening party, so I missed Max playing a few of his original compositions together with his quartet, but I did manage to photograph it before its closing. In the images below, you can view some of John’s stunning paintings and Dona’s fine art images on the walls of the Mondavi tasting room.
John’s paintings feature ropey forms, or channels, intended to represent the flow and pulse of connectedness.
Dona’s fine art photography is inspired by film noir, with high contrast images full of dark, ominous tension.
As I walked around and captured these images, I did my best to avoid any reflections off of Dona’s photographs, but this meant that I was often shooting at an angle, instead of straight on, compromising the view-ability of her images through my own photos. Therefore, below you can see the selection of images on display as Dona shared her files with me for this article.
More of Dona’s fine art photography can be viewed at the Di Rosa art museum here in Napa, while John’s – besides the Di Rosa – is also on display at Visa Financial, Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley, and Bloomingdales in San Francisco, Chicago and New York.
John has recently been selected as one of the thirty-two Bay Area-based artists to create a heart-inspired artwork for the San Francisco General Foundation ‘Hearts in San Francisco’ 2017 public art series. John is one of the six who will be creating one of the large hearts (5′ tall, 6′ wide, 40″ deep). So keep an eye out for something amazing popping up in San Francisco in the new year!
Beyond their respective fine art work, Dona and John are also very active and highly valued wedding and portrait photographers here in the California Wine Country, and you can view more of this work on their website.
Then there is the garden, the vineyard and the glorious wine. The garden, which I have been enjoying so much and is divided in several sections, is Dona’s other child. Besides the grown trees bordering the property here and there, Dona told me the garden did not exist when they first moved here. She has created it over the past fifteen years, and tends to it organically and with much love and care. I have photographed it through almost all the seasons, starting in January, and am in the process of editing over four-hundred images. I will share them here with you by and by, but you can get a few glimpses below.
Above: the circular lawn with the fairy lights that is just outside my cottage. Dona said that she had always wanted one and it was the first thing she planned when she started designing the garden. I captured this image, and a couple more you will see further down, on a morning in early spring while the fog was still floating around.
Below: view of the rose garden at sunset, photographed early last May.
In the image above is part of the orchard. Those are Fuji Apple trees, and it won’t be long before they are ready for harvest. The orchard also comprises a number of Asian Pear trees in three different varieties, which were harvested already at the beginning of August. You can see some of those in the image below.
Beyond the orchard is the vineyard, and that is John’s other baby. The vineyard is small, just under three acres, and is called Los Carneros, from the name of this region. It features all pinot noir grapes, which this year have already been harvested as they will be turned into champagne by neighboring Domaine Carneros, on the other side of the hill. This is not always the case, however, as this little vineyard has already yielded two vintages of red Pinot Noir (2010 and 2012) and one of white (currently being bottled and labeled) under John and Dona’s Art House label. No other name would be as perfect, don’t you think?
I have recently had the pleasure of tasting both red and white and found them both excellent. The red Pinot Noir is smooth and nicely rounded with gentle tannins. It carries prevalent notes of red fruits finished by a touch of spice, all experienced in the mouth in layers. The white has floral tones, both smooth and crisp at the same time, with only light oak barrel presence and a mild acidity, which to me are both big plus points. Both are among the best I have ever had, and I suggested they be entered in competitions. Being a boutique production, these wines are available for purchase, but only directly from the source. If you are interested, you can place an order through the Art House Wines website.
If you would like to meet these two multi-layered and multi-talented Renaissance people, enjoy their art and their garden with a glass of good wine alongside, you could come spend some time in beautiful Napa Valley and stay at the lovely cottage in the garden (when I am not here), or their other charming and more spacious vacation rental, also on property. It is wonderful all year round here, it just rains a little more in winter – and thank goodness for that!
It is most often with hindsight that we recognize the synchronicity of events that leads us one place rather than another. Though not all responding to my requirements, there are a lot of vacation rentals in Napa Valley. The number goes even higher if you consider that my search radius included Sonoma town and most of Marin County as well. Yet, among all of the places available, I picked this one, and I was blessed on so many levels. The lovely space, the quiet and privacy I treasure, the glorious garden – which I have watched go from winter to spring to summer and with whom I have so deeply connected. But most of all Dona and John, with whom I have art, nature and wine in common, as well as, clearly, a soul connection and now a developing friendship.
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