From the moment someone turns onto a lengthy driveway, enters through a Jurassic Park-like gate or rolls up to something reminiscent of a castle, all senses are engaged in a winery visit.
Just like label design and packaging, much consideration goes into architecture and design of a winery. Wineries hope to elevate their wines through everything a visitor touches and sees.
It’s important, then, for modern wineries to be designed in ways that reflect the company’s values, particularly as they coincide with organic and ecologically conscious winemaking.
“The word ‘sustainable’ is tossed around a lot and there is ample liberty taken with it, but it doesn’t mandate organic farming, which is something we do out of common sense,” says Kashy Khaledi, proprietor of Ashes & Diamonds, a certified Napa Green producer. “Does it make sense to spray harmful chemicals a stone’s throw away from guests enjoying their Ashes & Diamonds wines? Of course not.”
But what do winemaking choices have to do with design elements like 15-foot-high metal artwork or imported stone archways? Nothing concrete (pun intended). But the philosophies behind ethical winemaking are starting to seep into a more functional design.
As general manager and winemaker of Tantalus, British Columbia’s first LEED-certified winery, David Paterson feels you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make good wine.
“You need good grapes to make good wine,” says Paterson. “I find that when you get into the architecturally designed buildings with all sorts of curves or false walls, they’re usually down on efficiency in favor of design aspects.”
Energy conservation at Tantalus focuses on the winemaking facility, with efficient insulation and Joule heat exchanges.
“In a way, we built one massive fridge,” says Paterson. “The energy use when it’s minus-15° Celsius [5° Farenheit] outside is a lot less than if we weren’t as well insulated.”
The Okanagan Valley can see temperatures upward of 40°C, or 104°F, in the summer, so less energy is needed to keep the space cool.
The use of natural elements is another resourceful way to influence design. In Mendoza, Argentina, Sebastián Zuccardi says the creation of Zuccardi Valle de Uco, opened in 2016, was inspired by the Andes.
“The construction emerges from the soil, and it is part of it because it was made with natural elements such as round, white and calcareous stones, sand and water,” says Zuccardi. “It is also made of concrete from the outside to inside, from the stone walls to concrete vats inside.”
Modern constructs aren’t always the answer. When Ashes & Diamonds was built in 2016, its team dove decades into the past to inspire the efficient and economical construction of the tasting room bar.
“The mid-century Californian Case Study Houses served as the template for us when thinking of what our tasting room would look and feel like,” says Khaledi. “The folded rooves from Donald Wexler homes in Palm Springs morphed into a floating folded roof above the hospitality building that created a massive, shaded surface area for outdoor seating.”
The production facility at Ashes & Diamonds mirrors much of the philosophy of Tantalus: no-frills function with flat metal surfaces that are easy to clean.
“We really put the ‘nothing’ in nothing fancy here,” says Khaledi. “Our wines are made with minimal intervention and rarely if ever do we filter. Keeping microbials out is part of this discipline, so cleanliness is key.”
Implementing nitty-gritty details into the design falls to the architect. Tom O’Neil, from Virginia-based O’Neil Architects, says his portfolio is comprised of about 20% wineries scattered across Northeastern U.S. Sustainable concept and design are at the top of nearly every winery’s list.
“There’s often discussion about the use of recycled materials or using certain framing techniques to conserve lumber,” says O’Neil. “Just about any winery is going to have good exposure to the sun, so photovoltaic panels usually come into discussion.”
Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, additional factors have borne more weight in design considerations.
“I’d say the two biggest things are the ventilation requirements, making sure [the] HVAC system can bring plenty of fresh air into the building, and then the other is thinking about indoor-outdoor spaces more,” says O’Neil. “Even before Covid, most wineries realize that people want to be outside, so roll-up doors to create big open spaces have become quite popular.”
Such considerations are expected to continue as spaces reopen and new ones are designed, fueled by strategies for long-term sustainability and success.