Text description provided by the architects. Settled into the rolling hills of California’s Alexander Valley, a new winery under the Silver Oak label cuts through the land with the low profile of dark, minimal, gabled forms. Designed by the San Francisco firm Piechota Architecture, the nearly-net-zero-water tasting room and production facility reference the dominant barn form in the area, here reduced to its simplest clarity.
Driving up, the visitor sees the tasting room and production spaces emerge effortlessly from the hillside. Inside, every space has a view to the vineyard, and the local landscape becomes art. Looking through the sweeping open space of the tasting room, whose shape is reflective of the idealized and almost-Platonic barn, you see a gentle a gentle rolling landscape, dotted with trees. The Alexander Valley has its own spirit; long the little sibling to the more heavily-built-up Napa to the east, the Valley has been recognized for its small wineries; its more intimate orientation to the production of wine; its status as an almost-secret (that is just now beginning to be told).
The history of the region also unfolds here. The winery’s exterior is clad in wood siding repurposed from 1930s wine tanks from Cherokee Winery, one of the valley’s pioneers of winemaking. Valley oak wood, used throughout, came from Middletown trees that died in the Valley Fire of 2015, their blackened trunks taking on new life in the winery.
The entry stair in the production department is built from repurposed wood from oak wine barrels, the red wine stains purposefully left. The material palette, dominantly steel and wood, reference the construction of a wine barrel, while wood slats at the end of the fermentation room shape light and shadow, reminiscent of the quality of light inside old barns – the way in which the sun, no matter how guarded, will still find a way in. The scent of wine permeates the space, until you step outside, when the scent of herbs fills the breeze.
Water plays a central role in the region and in the production of wine. The LEED Platinum and nearly-net-zero-water winery, which is designed to use the least amount of water possible per gallon of wine produced, thinks also of the aesthetic role of water, as a reflective pool cuts its way through the tasting room. On sunny days, the pool reflects a window, which in turn reflects the pool.Nearby, a series of raised vegetable gardens contrast with the unfurling and untamed landscape beyond the winery’s borders. The smells, colors, movements of the garden connect to a larger cycle – the observation of seasonal changes, and the way in which we, as humans, can find delight in our lives through the knowledge that they are always changing.