A Blend of Winery Architecture: Design Ecology, Sustainability and Community
by Drew Stofflet, Time Out Wine Columnist
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Ioften sit and write in the vibrancy and resonance of the stunning new Basalt Library.
The freedom of space and the softness of patterns blend to the huge windows which frame Basalt Mountain's expanse and the Roaring Fork River bubbling along. A creation of Carbondale A4 and Denver's OZ, it conjures some of the basic principles of architecture: order, arrangement, symmetry, propriety and economy; taking into account balance and the human senses. A blend of these is on display for the mind and soul.
And appropriately enough, today I sit at The Blend: the valley's newest communal coffee space in Carbondale. Sharon and Wade Newsom opened just a few weeks ago, and according to Sharon, a designer with i3 in Basalt, she likens both the name and the mission to just that: a blend of design elements, people and art. The mission, given by Wade, is community coming together through percolation. Sharon viewed the design challenge of this space to combine elements of coffee shop décor while not being too one-dimensional. The theme is clean Scandinavian, not too modern, warm or industrial. And right down to the beans, just like the grapes in a winery, you must have a complete system. She states, “You can start with great beans, but if it is not there with the barista, you will not have a finished product. You need love, care and respect.” Echoing the main theme again, “And that blend draws upon community.”
A few weeks back my profile of Ben Parsons' new Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery in Denver played heavily on the theme of culture that creates sense of place and leaves its own imprint on the taste of the wine. Through this cultural phenomenon, the grit of the urban life breathes.
Wineries create community, most notably on display as functional art of tasting rooms. DesignCrave on-line magazine describes Napa's Merus Winery in their recent World's Ten Best Wineries as “A wide open tasting room with couches and a communal table, making this a great place to share drinks with friends.” The smooth black countertops evoke a sharpening and a depth of senses, while semi-arched ceiling and black beams blend past and present.
The López De Heredia Winery in Spain's La Rioja has garnered a lot of exposure recently, including inclusion in San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art's show The Art Of Wine: How Wine Became Modern. Combining modern with ancient, Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, one of Forbes “World's 100 Most Powerful Women,” has integrated with the original construction a lattice framework of metallic rails and glass shaped like a glowing wine bottle. This is the first stage in López de Heredia's global museum project that it is developing to promote a greater awareness of its facilities and history, which dates 125 years back. The original building will be preserved, and the new “social building” will be faithful to the original architectural style.
Moving now to the practical and functional design aspects we would come to expect from modern wineries: sustainability.
Ridge at Lytton Springs in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley completed an 18,000 square feet winery, the largest commercial strawbale building in the US. Designed by Freebairn Smith & Crane, San Francisco, it emulates a California barn with a gabled structure and wraparound closed-in porch, only twice the scale. Strawbale panels are inserted between Alaskan Yellow Cedar posts, finished with a range of earth or lime plasters. Easy on the senses and fully functional, this design project is a testament to energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. If further proof is needed, year in and year out, their Lytton Springs zinfandel and Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon earn top honors.
At the forefront of complete systems is Somerston Ranch Winery in eastern Napa County, which I was invited to tour last July. Just two weeks ago they celebrated the conclusion of their new project featuring a state of the art, energy efficient winery, including the first integrated use of a CO2 heating and cooling system in a winery. The system can heat and cool at the same time and as a closed system has no harmful emissions. It is 300 to 400 percent efficient compared to a traditional propane system, which operates around 80%. Blending technologies, including a hybrid adiabatic tower which uses dry air to heat in cooler months and wetness to heat during the summer, greatly decreases both energy and water consumption. Craig Becker —owner, general manager and winemaker — note s that “Somerston's guiding mission is to operate systemically as a sustainable, efficient, land-focused project.”
Finally, Chris Kelly and Wellington, New Zealand firm Architecture Workshop has been named one of five winners of the prestigious London-based emerging architecture awards for its design for the Peregrine Winery in Gibbston, Queenstown, the first for a New Zealand firm or winery. The jury described the winery as “an elegant blade of light that contrasts with the rugged and sublime natural landscape. The age-old process of making wine has been radically reinterpreted for our time.” Judging included sensitivity to “spirit of place,” awareness of ecological implications, constructional ingenuity, sensitive understanding of materials, and inventiveness in handling space and light, all of which is laid out in a simple industrial character, with a translucent rising roof canopy that unifies “front and back of house” and gives the building an ephemeral presence in the dramatic landscape. Using the materials of neighboring rural buildings and a duralite roof, it is clear that the building would reinforce the Peregrine wine brand.
“The changing roof gradient,” says Kelly, “was inspired by images freezing the kinetic rotation of a bird in flight, evoking the majesty the Peregrine falcon as it glides on the thermal uplifts off the land.”
Fancy that blend while you swirl a glass on your marble countertop. Cheers! Remember, wine and design reveal truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at firstname.lastname@example.org