architect: Lundberg Design
location: Calistoga, USA
Sometimes projects with the strictest constraints inspire the most unique design solutions. A young couple with a 41-acre vineyard site approached us about creating a working winery – one that was representative of their product and broke away from the typical faux-Tuscan winery aesthetic.
Budget and the smart allocation of resources were among the major factors driving the design. While the vineyard was relatively flat, the vines butt up to steep hills on one side of the property. From the beginning it was obvious that the hill would be the best location for the winery site – this scheme allowed us to preserve the most plant-able land. As we went further with the design, it became clear that in order to allocate funds and resources to the most important elements, we should only build the most necessary structures. The final design is a “non-winery” – a naturally cooled cave for aging wine barrels and tasting sessions burrowed into the hillside, and a sheltered outdoor space for temperature controlled fermentation tanks.
The design remains dramatic despite the absence of an actual building. The outdoor space is delineated by two retaining walls which cut a “right-angle slash” into the hill. Each wall houses a portal into the cave. Patrons enter along the longer wall which slopes from zero to 31 feet over a 270-foot length. The wall is plumb and along it are the six fermentation tanks and catwalk system. Galvanized steel columns along the wall support a cantilevered translucent canopy that literally ties back to the hillside with steel T-sections bolted to soil anchors. The canopy structure overhead mimics the orientation of the vineyard rows, visually reinforcing the movement of grapes from the vineyard to the winery. At the corner, the long plumb wall intersects a second concrete wall, which is battered back at a 10 degree angle – this is the main entrance portal to the wine cave. This southeast-facing wall has ivy and other vines climbing up from its base and will eventually be covered in foliage. The cave doors are constructed from galvanized steel sheets and bolts, and the space between the doors and the cave walls is filled with found wine bottles of all sizes and colors, lending a diffused light to the cave entrances, glowing on the inside from sunlight during the day, then glowing on the outside from the lights inside the caves at night.
While the crush pad and fermentation facility express the science of winemaking, the cave is another world – a cool 58 degrees, even in the heat of a Napa summer. The walls are shotcrete, ground with a tunneling machine to create a kind of cement corduroy pattern, textural and handmade in its uneven qualities. The ends of the tunnels expose the natural rock, and the wine-tasting room is completely exposed rock, for here the substrate was strong enough to leave exposed. This is where the unknown, the magic occurs. It is where you smell the wine, and if you are lucky, taste it.