Aperture Cellars

The clients for this unique project are Jesse Katz, an exciting young winemaker selected as a “rising star” by Wine Spectator who is “changing the way the world drinks wine,” and his father Andy Katz – a world-renowned photographer who, through his photographs, has changed the way the world sees wine. The  intent for this project was to give voice to the groundbreaking vision of both men through the architecture, while simultaneously responding to the winery’s unique location in the Sonoma Valley. Set on the valley floor, to the east of the Sonoma Mountains, the site enjoys a distinctive vantage point that capitalizes upon the rich soils of the creek-fed site, the fog-cooled micro-climate and the views of the mountain ranges to the east and west. 

The project comprises two distinct elements: a large production winery, and a more intimate hospitality building to host curated tastings and events. The design of each building is an interpretation of the camera as a filter for experience. Much like the art of photography, architecture is an intellectual and visual exercise in perspective. Although the two structures vary in scale and massing, the design solution for each emerged from the exploration of the geometric elements of an aperture, which takes the form of a hexagon, and the possibilities that emerge from reassembling those elements in varying ways. 

To minimize the massing of the 20,000-square-foot production building, the hexagon is deconstructed into separate elements, which are then manipulated and reassembled into interconnected structures, with rooflines that reach skyward, forming a dramatic silhouette. Rustic materials that relate to the land respect the building’s agricultural context. The buildings are sheathed in a darkened metal that approximates the visual effect of aging corten steel. 

Set a small distance from the production winery, the small hospitality building is yet another visual manipulation of the elements of an aperture, defined by light, views and transparent indoor/outdoor spaces. Oriented to capture the views of the Sonoma Mountains and embrace the ocean breezes that flow from the west, the building pad is elevated 32 inches above the vineyards, lifting the visual perspective and expanding the views. 

In the hospitality building, the deconstructed elements of the aperture are assembled around a central hospitality area, lit by a massive oculus skylight at its center. This central tasting area is flanked by private, glass-walled tasting rooms that unfold to reveal 180-degree views of the vineyards and mountains. The deep charcoal of the building’s exterior yields to a bright white interior, lined with large museum-quality prints of the father’s photographs. Although the interior ceiling heights are limited to ten feet to assure an efficient use of materials, the all-white interiors – illuminated by the central oculus and sliding glass walls – form an airy, gallery-like space that simultaneously celebrates artwork and the views. On the face of the bar in the central tasting area, geometric shapes on the face of the tasting bar reflect the architect’s original sketch for Aperture’s production building.