If you’ve ever driven by the di Rosa complex on the Carneros Highway – with its contemporary tin barn and big orange gate – and wondered what lay inside, you’re in for a treat. The rural environment belies an extraordinary cultural resource: di Rosa is considered the world’s most significant holding of Bay Area art, housing approximately 2,000 works of art by 800 artists. Its collection includes significant works by such well-known artists as Mark di Suvero, Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri, Joan Brown, and William T. Wiley, among many others.

In addition to its permanent collection, the museum showcases the former home of collectors Rene and Veronica di Rosa, whose bohemian spirits and passion for art are evident everywhere. Their living quarters and vineyards around Winery Lake became ground zero for the acquisition of the art collection – both historic and contemporary – that’s now on display within three buildings and on the surrounding landscape. The museum was incorporated as a nonprofit public trust in 2000 and continues to be a center for contemporary art in Northern California.

From October 26, 2016 to May 28, 2017, you can view the special exhibition “Based on a True Story: Highlights from the di Rosa Collection,” which gives unprecedented access to letters and ephemera from di Rosa’s archives as well as pivotal works representing the major movements in Northern California art history such as Bay Area Assemblage, figurative, funk, ceramic sculpture, and conceptual art, allowing a deep look into the artistic legacy of the region.

Some other things to know: Drop-in visitors can view current exhibitions in the Gatehouse Gallery, while docent-led tours are given of the Residence Gallery and other areas by appointment. All tours are 1.5 hours and are offered three times on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and four times on weekend days. There are also two-hour outdoor sculpture tours the first Sunday of each month, nature hikes on select Saturdays from May to October, private tours, and Spanish-language tours, in addition to monthly ART SPARK family workshops featuring hands-on projects for all ages led by artists.

If you’re wine-tasting in the Carneros region and want to feast your eyes and minds as well as your palate, you should definitely check out di Rosa for a few hours of visual stimulation.

di Rosa, Napa  / Photo: Israel Valencia