Berghold Estate Winery has an amazing Christmas display inside its tasting room that will put you in the holiday spirit faster than you can say Kris Kringle.
Year round beneath the pitched ceiling inside Berghold’s elegant barn-style chateau off Cherry Road is perhaps the most impressive collection of antiques anywhere in the country. But come holiday time, the rare furniture, woodwork and sculptures share space with an overwhelming treasury of Santa Clauses, decorated Christmas trees, sparkling ornaments, and other dazzling objects.
“We get calls in July asking when the décor is going up,” said Julia Berghold, general manager of the family-run operation. “We put some decorations up the first year just to make it look festive, but then after that, every year it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
This year, the display went up in early October and will stay up through January.
The Christmas display has been Julia’s passion project since the winery opened its doors in 2005. She used to spend up to 20 hours a day for more than a week by herself putting everything out. She’s grateful for the help she’s received the past four years from a small team of dedicated ladies.
Julia always is on the lookout for items to add to the display, and she said the hard work has been worth the effort based on the visitors’ reactions.
“I’m looking for unusual things,” she said. “There’s no point in carrying something that everyone else is carrying, and that’s one of the things people say most when they come in here – the uniqueness of the items.”
Six life-sized, old world Father Christmases stand in the tasting room, with long white beards flowing over their chubby cheeks beneath their tiny spectacles. Each 6-foot tall work of art is unique and painstakingly hand made from top to bottom by Kay Berghold, whose husband Joe Berghold owns the winery and is a world-renowned antiques collector. Kay makes the clothing, dressing each Father Christmas differently in colorful fabrics with decorative glass accents. Some are draped in furs donated by friends and visitors.
Julia said her favorite item changes every year. This year, she’s particularly fond of a hand-carved, hand-painted white peacock perched on a regal stand with gold embellishment and brilliant feathers. The sculpture and more than a dozen other pieces rest atop a 103-year-old piano designed by Stieff, an East Coast piano maker that competed with Steinway but didn’t survive the Great Depression.
Near the peacock sits a tiny carriage that resembles a Faberge egg — perhaps something a Russian czar might have commissioned — with a nutcracker doll standing guard on either side.
With every turn, another interesting, fun piece of décor catches the eye.
“People come in and they love it,” Julia said. “It instantly puts them in the mood for the holidays.”
Setting the mood is an important aspect of Joe Berghold’s business philosophy. Berghold made his fortune in corporate finance and helped turn around companies like Levi Straus and Six Flags. Berghold headed Levi’s European children’s clothing division out of France, where his dream of some day owning a winery was born. While with Six Flags, Berghold gained an appreciation for creating an unbeatable customer experience. In 1986, Berghold set out to achieve his dream by purchasing 85 acres and two homes from three different parties in Lodi. After replanting his acreage in the late 1980s with marketable wine grape varieties, Berghold sold his fruit to outside clients while he and Kay lived in Portola Valley. In 2000, Joe and Kay moved to Lodi and started their winery, enlisting their son, Miles Berghold, as the winemaker and his wife, Julia, as the general manager.
In order to create an unbeatable customer experience and satisfy one of his passions, Joe accented his spacious tasting room with antiques from the American Victorian period (1880-1900), including many valuable pieces from the Philadelphia area where he grew up the son of an antiques collector. Joe, who also restores antiques, has developed a relationship with the family of noted craftsman Daniel Pabst and has in his collection some of Pabst’s most important pieces, including a remarkable, perfectly restored mantel built in the 1880s that once stood in a mansion in downtown Philadelphia that had a renowned art gallery.
“It’s probably the most famous fireplace in American history,” Joe Berghold said. “It’s all hand carved by Daniel Pabst. This is a Pabst piece. It’s one of his most famous pieces, and it’s all Pennsylvania black walnut.”
The antique collection is not meant to overshadow the wine. Berghold Estate Winery truly is an estate winery with all of the fruit coming from their three contiguous vineyards encompassing 85 acres that are planted to syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel and viognier. Recently, sangiovese, Grenache, petite sirah, mouvedre and cabernet franc were planted. About 30 percent of the yield goes into Berghold wine, the rest is contracted to other wineries. Total production hovers around 5,000 cases and all of it is sold directly through their web site, tasting room and wine club.
“There’s a lot here,” Joe said. “Julia does a great job with the Christmas stuff, so we have the Christmas stuff. But during most of the year, we don’t camouflage the antiques. It’s a family deal and we’re successful as a winery. As a small, estate winery, this is the way to go.”