Emeritus Vineyards Tasting Room

Project Description

A boutique winery in western Sonoma County has experienced amazing success producing world class Pinot Noir wines and wants to expand their public presence by adding a new Tasting Room.  The tasting room is intended to create a unique, welcoming iconography to entice visitors and serve their growing client base beyond their established club members.

The goal was to create an elegant yet somewhat rustic building that supports this working winery’s values and the single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines that exhibit elegance, balance and charm.  The tasting room should reflect these same characteristics.  The program called for a simple yet powerful space that: takes full advantage of the site; provides a modern, flexible and re-configurable space; engages with both the vineyards and the winery functions.

SITE FEATURES:  The existing winery buildings are situated along the Gravenstein Highway which generates quite a bit of traffic and associated vehicular noise.  The winery’s vineyards surround the winery buildings on all four sides: east across the two lane Gravenstein Highway; north and west uphill from the winery buildings; and south across the narrow country lane of Peachland Avenue.

The site selected for the tasting room is just south of the existing main winery building and takes complete advantage of the stunning vineyard views to the west and south.  Other advantages of this site include: visibility of the tasting room by cars approaching from the south; area for a demonstration garden; highway noise mitigation from an existing berm and redwood grove; a new visitor parking area separate from the ranch office, shop and worker parking at the north end of the winery building.

TASTING ROOM:  The tasting room is attached to the existing main winery building and is created using a simple, relatively inexpensive pre-manufactured metal building structure to complement the original ranch buildings.  The tasting room differentiates itself from the supporting buildings through color, texture and detail.  A trellised pergola draws visitors from the Burgundian style gravel parking court past a demonstration vineyard toward one of the two exterior trellised patios and the tasting room entrance.

The interior features a high sloped ceiling with exposed metal frames, ceiling fans and adjustable lighting.  The tasting room includes new large viewing window and doorway into one of the winery’s iconic barrel rooms.  The tasting room is designed with operable glass walls which fully open to expand the tasting room out onto trellised patios on the building’s south and west sides.

Tasting room visitors are greeted upon arrival and offered private seating in their choice of small conversational seating groupings, around a large communal tasting table or on one of the two adjacent patios.  Visitors are immersed in the winery’s operations by the adjacency to the barrel cellar, opportunities for private tours and barrel tastings, a barrel stave sculpture wall and displays including a grape vine complete with its full root system, memorabilia from the winery and the former apple ranch that the winery resides on.

Design Challenge

The client wanted a non-traditional tasting room that provides for a unique and very personalized tasting experience.  Not the traditional tasting bar approach, but rather a series of different seating groups both inside and out on the terraces.  The project’s other main goal was to leverage the vineyard setting and views to the south and west, creating an integrated user experience. The solution is less about the building as a statement and more about framing the tasting experience, creating a memorable setting and connection to the vineyards.  The Winery has this to say about the project’s impact: “Our Tasting Room is right inside our working winery in the middle of our iconic Hallberg Ranch Vineyard.  You can see the whole operation from grape to glass from the tasting room, or on a tour of the vineyard and winery! Located just two miles north of Sebastopol, in the heart of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, the space opened in 2015.  All tastings are seated and personalized, with knowledgeable hosts prepared to educate or casually chat about our winery and wines!  The atmosphere is open and elegantly rustic, with a streamlined contemporary flair—a style reflective of our unique Pinot Noirs. Wall-to-wall glass doors open onto a wide terrace, enabling the former apple barn to showcase breathtaking views of one of California’s most distinguished dry-farmed vineyards.  Inside, the barrel stave wall installation was designed and constructed by our very own vineyard workers Mark, Cristino, and Emiliano.” Success of the Tasting Room is illustrated by the highly sought after tasting and tour reservations and enthusiastic user feedback.  What others have to say about the impact on the users and wine aficionados: Best Winery Tour—USA Today  Must-visit Winery—Ted Loos, Travel + Leisure

Physical Context

The new Tasting Room is integrated into its surroundings in a variety of ways.  The site for the new Tasting Room was previously developed.  The project demolished an existing free-standing restroom building, surrounding walkways, septic tank and concrete slab for LPG (propane) storage tanks.  The new building footprint is nearly identical to the previous footprint.  The Tasting Room is physically connected with the existing winery building.  A large, new window and door provide both visual connection and physical access to the adjacent barrel cellar enhancing both visitor experience and winery tour opportunities. The Tasting Room is sited such that it frames beautiful views of the winery’s vineyards to the south and west.  This connects the visitor experience with the vines that ultimately become the wines they have come to explore.  The vineyards are dry farmed in good stewardship of the land and this technique also happens to produce excellent wine grapes.  A dry farmed demonstration vineyard immediately greets visitors as they approach the Tasting Room entrance and provides separation between the Tasting Room and the Burgundian-style gravel parking court.  In addition to the demonstration vineyard, the landscape is designed using drought-tolerant native plant materials requiring little to no water.  A heritage Catalpa tree was protected and retained as a nearby focal point for the Tasting Room and exterior terraces.  The project adds almost no additional impervious surface area and all storm water is retained and infiltrated on site. The new building addition is lower in height and profile than the existing winery building and, coupled with the trellises extending out from the Tasting Room, serves to reduce the apparent height and overall mass of the winery.  The color of the new addition is somewhat darker and warmer than the main winery building, better integrating it into the rural agrarian landscape. Wellness is a foundation of the project design.  Retractable glass walls provide daylight and views for the Tasting Room occupants.  The other small, regularly occupied rooms also have ample windows providing daylight and vies for those occupants.  Overall, forty-five percent of the exterior walls are glass.  Virtually all the west and south facing glazing is shaded by trellises.  The interior materials were chosen for a variety of reasons including durability, economy, flexibility, and style, but also with consideration for indoor air quality.  Polished concrete floors and zero VOC content paint make up the majority of interior finishes.  Heating is provided by a radiant concrete slab.  Operable doors and retractable glass walls maximize natural ventilation.  The resulting space is a warm, inviting, and healthy place to provide a memorable experience for the occupants and users.