Besides its sustainable bona-fides (it recently received LEED Gold certification), the new tasting room and visitors center at HALL Wines & Vineyards in St. Helena, is a striking mix of old and new. We checked in with St. Helena–based Jarrod Denton, of Signum Architecture, to get his perspective on the design and inspiration for the space.
What was the overall design brief?
The winery is set on the flat valley floor, with spectacular views to Howell Mountain to the east and the Mayacamas Mountains to the west. We wanted the building to feel like it was stretching between those opposing mountains, drawing tasters in from all sides. Upon entry, an alternating sequence begins, where guests are brought into a quieter, darker space, close to the winemaking experience, and then released back out toward the views and openness of the valley.
A great wine develops and changes over time, and we wanted the building to do the same by using all natural materials: weathering steel, warm concrete, hand-applied plaster, and stone. These materials also tie the new contemporary building together with the historic Peterson Bergfeld building set just 50 feet away. The only manufactured element, an 18- to 30-foot-tall glazing, ribbons around the new visitor center, dissolving between the other materials—showing itself just enough to reflect the surrounding landscape.
Could you go into a little more detail about the design reflecting the sense of the valley floor?
The design drew inspiration from the valley and spectacular mountain views. Encased in a transparent floor-to-ceiling glass curtain, the stone and steel structure blurs the interior/exterior divide, reflecting the natural beauty of the landscape. This allows nature to take center stage and connects visitors to the land.
A large viewing terrace resulting from carving into the flat site and lowering the first level of the new building by three feet, creates a second-level terrace that is high enough to provide expansive views of the valley and mountains, yet close enough to the earth to immerse the viewer into the vineyard landscape.
How does this structure relate to others on the property? Is it a departure or in keeping with other architecture?
The contemporary design of the new visitor center and the historic Peterson Bergfeld building sit on the 33.44-acre site as two seemingly juxtaposed structures; however, the use of natural materials and the glass reflecting the historic structure allows for the visitor center (or “hospitality” building) to compliment rather than compete. The Peterson Bergfeld required attention to fine woodworking, stone craftsmanship, and care in restoring a local treasure. While the hospitality building was constructed of concrete, steel, and glass, the materials were brought together in a way that is unexpected for a rural site and blend seamlessly. As an architect having an existing fabric to work with and respond to is always preferred. It is rare when you are able to help shape an 1885 historical restoration and design a contemporary building with a fabulous natural setting. Add to that world-class wines, art, and people and you have a dream project.