By Carol Sorgen
With wine tourism a growing industry – 23.6 million tourists spending $7.2 billion a year in California wine regions alone – today’s vintners realize that producing and selling wine is only one facet of their job. Creating a “hospitality experience” for their visitors is another. To that end, many are calling on architects to not only design a winery that supports the production of the best wine possible, but also offers guests an intimate setting in which to sample (and, of course, to purchase) the fruits of their labors.
The pairing of wineries and architects is less a “trend” than a “movement,” says San Francisco-based Greg Warner, co-founder of Walker Warner Architects.
“This is the next generation of visitor experience,” says Warner, whose firm designed Quintessa, in Saint Helena, California. “We’ve moved beyond a walk in the vineyards followed by a glass of wine at a picnic table.”
Warner’s crescent-shaped design for Quintessa reflects the owners’ desire for a structure that blends into the contours of the property. The winery is wrapped into an eastern-facing hillside, making it visible only from a small portion of the 280-acre estate. Visitors can walk to a scenic overlook of the property, tour the winery and caves, and then sit down in one of three private tasting pavilions overlooking the Napa Valley. Constructed of dark steel frames, textured concrete walls, and large panes of glass, Quintessa’s California contemporary look is a far cry from the traditional nod to French and Italian roots that once prevailed among wineries.
Across the country, the growing wine industry is contributing to an upswing in wine tourism as well, but some East Coast wineries are taking a somewhat more traditional route. Simon Jacobsen of the Washington, DC firm, Jacobsen Architecture, wanted his design of Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Virginia to be contemporary but still reflect its 18th-century rural surroundings. He accomplished that tone with the use of fieldstone, seam metal roofs, and cupolas.
Laid out in the shape of a cruciform, Jacobsen says he organized the winery in an “intuitive” way so that visitors can see all the processes of production from one central tasting area. “No long walks,” says Jacobsen. “Everything is right there.”
Of course, you can travel the world to visit such architecturally stunning wineries as the Argentinean contemporary reinforced concrete, glass, and stainless steel structure of O. Fournier, designed by architects Eliana Bormida and Mario Yanzón; New Zealand’s Peregrine Wines, whose soaring sloped roof was designed to honor a bird in flight; or Lopez de Heredia, designed by the late London-based British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who re-envisioned one of Spain’s most historic wineries. It’s housed primarily in 19th-century brick buildings in an avant-garde complex, featuring a glass canopy and stainless steel beams.
But there is no shortage of destination-worthy wineries on this continent where the art of the grape has been married to the art of the setting. Here are just a few:
Black Hills Estate Winery
A modern, yet modest, reinterpretation of an industrial building, Black Hills Estate Winery in British Columbia has eschewed the Napa influence and focused on strong, energy-efficient buildings, while still making use of contemporary materials such as concrete, steel beams, and the expansive use of glass to showcase the Canadian desert panorama.
Sokol Blosser Winery
The Sokol Blosser family, who helped launch the Oregon winemaking industry, commissioned the Portland-based architectural firm Allied Works to design a showpiece for their 100-acre estate. Terraces carved from the Dundee Hills form open and walled gardens, while the interior flows into a series of distinct spaces. The design and the materials, including striated wood cladding, reflect the vernacular wood buildings of the region but with a contemporary take.
COR Cellars Winery
COR Cellars Winery, situated within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area of Washington State, drew upon Seattle-based goCstudio to design a winery complex that paid homage to the regional landscape. The flat-roofed, 5,200-square-foot rectilinear facility harmonizes with the vista, while a contemporary gray chimney and ebony-stained cedar blanks with bronze trim also look “of the earth.” Folding glass doors and skylights bring natural light into the tasting room, with whitewashed walls and a light hemlock ceiling. A large masonry fireplace is a gathering place for visitors.
Finally, a tour of architecturally unique wineries wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Napa Valley’s Clos Pegase, designed by renowned architect Michael Graves in 1987. From the outset, the owners of Clos Pegase wanted a winery that expressed the philosophy that wine is an art form. The post-modern design merges elements of modern and ancient architecture with a Mediterranean influence that “celebrates the lifestyle that is unique to the Napa Valley.” An imposing grand portico supported by two massive pillars welcomes visitors, while indoors can be found 20,000 square feet of caves and a theater for special events. As written in House and Garden magazine, Clos Pegase “has raised two ancient arts – architecture and winemaking – to a height that resonates with echoes of the ages.”