Kistler Barn Rehabilitation

Project Description

In 2015, Kistler Vineyards enlisted ARG’s help in opening a new wine-tasting venue, the first in the winery’s 34-year history. The chosen site for the venue, known as the Trenton Roadhouse property, includes a farmhouse and barn constructed in the 1920s and situated in one of Kistler’s established single-vineyard sites in Sonoma County, California. With sweeping views of the surrounding vine-covered hills, Kistler looked to ARG to create a distinctive space to engage with the grandeur of the site while providing visitors with an unparalleled tasting experience reflective of their exclusive brand.

ARG completed the project in two phases. Phase I transformed the site’s two-story wood-frame farmhouse into a contemporary wine-tasting space and added a stone-paved patio and fire pit, and wisteria-covered pergola. Phase II, on which this submission focuses, consisted of the transformation of the historic barn, a gable-roofed structure with flanking shed-roof bays. The project included dismantling and salvaging materials from the existing, severely deteriorated structure and reconstructing the new barn on a slightly larger footprint with upgraded structural and climate-control systems.

While Kistler Vineyards enjoyed marked success and a sterling reputation for high-quality wine, their capacity to entertain visitors in the Phase I roadhouse tasting space was limited. As a result, the client had been forced to reject as much as 60 percent of requests for tastings. To resolve this, Kistler turned to ARG to design a new wine-tasting venue on site at the barn.

The barn was envisioned as a space with a less formal, more intimate atmosphere than that of the farmhouse. Aesthetically, the goal was to provide an engaging space with a connection to the surrounding vineyard while retaining the historic character of the structure. To meet these objectives, the site’s original barn was first dismantled, then reconstructed with an expanded main room so as to comfortably seat up to twenty-four guests for tastings or club-member gatherings.

In addition to a tasting venue, the barn now serves as a small wine production and fermentation facility. Early conversations with the winemaker inspired a design that highlights the winemaking process. Subsequently, the design includes a series of glazed openings along the length of the barrel room walls, through which guests can catch a glimpse of the wine bubbling over and out of the barrels as it ferments.

ARG worked closely with Kistler Vineyards to establish clear objectives and develop the most appropriate design approach. It was ARG’s careful adaptive reuse process that married rehabilitation with programmatic design to reveal a stunning transformation. The result unifies the rustic surrounding landscape with the now-polished farmhouse while providing a visual point of connection with the property’s rich history.

Design Challenge

In addition to serving as a tasting room, the barn doubles as a wine-barrel storage and fermentation space. As such, the barn required significant upgrades in order to create an environment in which to store the wine properly. This posed a challenge to the design team, which sought to conserve the structure’s aesthetic while bringing in modern equipment that would adapt the space to the contemporary programmatic needs of the client. ARG paid special consideration to the disparate atmosphere requirements, implementing temperature controls and interior finishes that retain cooler, more humid air in the barrel rooms while allowing for a warmer, drier climate in the human-occupied tasting room. The barrel rooms are lined limestone and contain climate-controlling equipment and piping concealed overhead, all helping to maintain the interior temperature and humidity levels without disrupting the historic elements of the space. Through ARG’s thoughtful adaptive reuse process, the design brought new functionality to the utilitarian space while preserving its charm and historic character.

Physical Context

With the site providing sweeping views of Sonoma County’s hill-covered vines, ARG created a space that capitalizes on the natural beauty of the landscape. The redesign of the barn connects to the site by referencing the use of the surrounding land in both its design aesthetic and its program. The result reflects the beauty and function of the landscape with a design that references wine-making in its aesthetic and program, makes use of salvaged, local materials, and reflects an appreciation of the land by engaging visitors with the site. Aspects of the design are meant to mitigate the natural conditions of the area without sacrificing aesthetic, including the design of larger overhangs to prevent heat gain. Such interventions allow visitors to experience the beauty of the site while enjoying modern amenities. Primarily, however, the client’s dual goals were to provide a connection to the surrounding vineyard and retain the historic character of the structure. Seeking to retain a connection to the site’s history and to the surrounding vineyard scenery, ARG maintained the original form and massing of the barn and repurposed salvaged wood from the original barn and other local resources for bespoke interior finishes, fixtures, and furnishings. The design complements the client’s refined and uncluttered aesthetic. In a further nod to the site, the sculptural light fixtures at the center of the space echo the look of wine barrels and serve as integral components of the design, providing warm light as well as a strong focal point to balance the expanse of rough-sawn redwood siding that lines the room. Finally, French doors, painted to match Kistler’s Pinot Noir bottle foil color, bookend the space and lead directly into the main tasting space from the outdoors, allowing air and light to circulate freely, while allowing a seamless transition from the outdoors in.