Wine & De­sign

A new Cal­i­for­nian win­ery serves up a big taste of the lo­cal sur­round­ings

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A barn­storm­ing win­ery in Cal­i­for­nia’s Alexan­der Val­ley

For his new­est win­ery, lo­cated in the his­toric Alexan­der Val­ley re­gion in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, wine en­tre­pre­neur David Dun­can en­listed Daniel Piechota, a lo­cal ar­chi­tect with strong con­nec­tions to the area. Dun­can’s fa­ther es­tab­lished the Sil­ver Oak wine la­bel in the 1970s and the busi­ness has been grow­ing ever since. It now works over 400 acres of land but Dun­can is deter­mined that the com­pany’s best wines are still to come.

The new win­ery is set in 70 acres of vine­yards along the foothills of the May­a­ca­mas Moun­tains, and the brief Dun­can gave Piechota was to

cre­ate a strik­ing fa­cil­ity that would ‘frame the vine­yards’ around it.

The project is split into two main struc­tures – a tast­ing room, which is po­si­tioned on the hill­side, and the pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, lo­cated in the val­ley below. To an­swer Dun­can’s re­quest for a com­pletely con­tem­po­rary struc­ture, Piechota, counter-in­tu­itively per­haps, started look­ing at tra­di­tional barn shapes. ‘Barn struc­tures in­spired me while I was driv­ing around Cal­i­for­nia. They hit that sweet spot for me. It’s not just the sen­ti­men­tal idea of a barn, but the ab­strac­tion of a barn,’ he says. ‘If you look from a dis­tance, they are very ab­stract, not that ar­tic­u­lated, pow­er­ful in their form.’

Each of the two re­sult­ing build­ings fea­tures a dif­fer­ent de­sign ap­proach. With the pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, a graphic struc­ture that con­nects and con­trasts with the or­ganic forms of the sur­round­ing vine­yards, Piechota fo­cused on the ex­ter­nal struc­ture, and the vis­ual im­pact from out­side. The op­po­site is true of the tast­ing room, which is de­signed to be read from the in­side out, with a strong fo­cus on the in­ter­nal ar­chi­tec­ture fram­ing the views. De­signed as a gabled pavil­ion, the open build­ing is placed in close con­ver­sa­tion with the sur­round­ing na­ture.

Within the tast­ing room is the cel­lar, a dark, cool space with a gran­ite boul­der in the cen­tre and leather bot­tle ham­mocks (de­signed to save the wine in the event of an earth­quake) lin­ing the walls. ‘We wanted the cel­lar to be an in­ward-fo­cus­ing space in con­trast to the out­ward fo­cus and open­ness of the tast­ing room,’ says Piechota. ‘We see it as a dark space for con­tem­pla­tion, quiet and rev­er­ence, al­most chapel-like. We liked the idea of con­nect­ing the cir­cu­lar form of si­los and bar­rels, both ubiq­ui­tous forms in wine-mak­ing, with the form of chapels. Think Saari­nen’s MIT chapel, for ex­am­ple.’

Once the build­ings’ forms were set, the ar­chi­tect worked on ma­te­ri­als, al­ter­nat­ing wood and steel to achieve a more mono­lithic aes­thetic. Piechota used re­claimed ma­te­ri­als through­out, and some of the ‘rel­a­tively ran­dom pat­terns of wood in the ar­chi­tec­ture’, he notes, have more to do with the equally ran­dom sizes of the raw ma­te­ri­als avail­able to him. Other el­e­ments of the de­sign are born out of ne­ces­sity. Ver­ti­cal wooden pan­els, ar­ranged in a rhyth­mic pat­tern over the pro­duc­tion build­ing’s win­dow, were orig­i­nally needed to con­trol light into the fer­men­ta­tion room, but later be­came a dis­tinc­tive vis­ual fea­ture through­out.

An­other key part of the brief was smart use of wa­ter, an in­creas­ingly scarce re­source in Cal­i­for­nia. Near the tast­ing room, a ‘wa­ter spine’ is both an aes­thetic ad­di­tion and a func­tional el­e­ment; ref­er­enc­ing farm­ing troughs for feed­ing an­i­mals, it dou­bles as an air-cool­ing de­vice when the breeze flows over it.

The over­all de­sign of the win­ery is strongly in­formed by the land­scape, with the rows of vine­yards of­fer­ing a nat­u­ral geo­met­ric rhythm to the plot. ‘There is an in­ten­tion for the vine­yard and the build­ings to be in sync,’ says Piechota. ‘We were shap­ing the build­ings to shape the views.’∂

the cir­cu­lar cel­lar ref­er­ences the de­sign of chapels and fea­tures earth­quake-proof bot­tle ham­mocks. the boul­der, left in its nat­u­ral state bar its pol­ished top, of­fers a marker around which vis­i­tors can gather

The win­ery build­ings are in­spired by Cal­i­for­nian barns, and al­ter­nate steel and wood. The pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties (Top and above) of­fer a graphic, im­pact­ful ex­te­rior, while The more open Tast­ing room, left, fo­cuses on The ex­pe­ri­ence from The in­side, fram­ing views of The land­scape

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