Attention to environmental concerns was evidenced in the Dominus Estate Winery (1998), designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The exterior structure is entirely built with stone gabions, creating not only a striking minimalist rectilinear design, but also a tremendous thermal mass that moderates the extremes in temperature fluctuation.
More recently, the Fetzer Winery Administration Building shows sparkling green performance in a very down-to-earth neo-vernacular package.
Better Design, Better Wine
Interior temperature regulation is an important dimension in which a structure can affect wine production. Temperature variations outside the range of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18 degrees Centigrade) are undesirable for the maturation of wine, regardless of season. This is why, for centuries, wine has been made and stored in caves in parts of France and elsewhere.
Another major way the building can affect winemaking is in how gently the wine can be moved during production. From the time the grapes are brought in, the average batch of wine needs to move a half dozen times before it reaches the bottle. This moving of grapes or wine, typically with a pump, is also one of the most damaging processes performed because physical maceration of the grapes and oxidation of the juice or wine can have irreparable negative consequences.
So, the natural and traditional way of moving wine, by gravity, is regaining popularity. Examples of "gravity-flow" wineries are becoming more common, with as many as five different floors cascading down the side of a hill.
Reducing the Required "Juice"
While the image of siphoning wine from one tank to another may conjure images of quaint, ancient techniques, most of the processing and work in a modern winery is mechanical and requires large quantities of electricity for power and water for cleaning. After construction costs, long-term power and water consumption are the highest expenses for wineries.
In recent years, many new California wineries have demonstrated energy efficiency and other ecologically responsible practices. Examples include sizable solar installations, straw bale and rammed earth construction, geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), rainwater collection, and gray-water recycling.
Wastewater is significant problem because it is voluminous and typically has a very low pH and very high biological oxygen demand. As a result, wineries must treat or digest wastewater before it can be released to a sewer or even, in some areas, returned to the earth.
One novel solution sends all the process wastewater to an open-air wetland pond that uses particular plant and microbial species to digest the organic material, prevent the foul odors common with collection tanks, and provide a potentially attractive landscape that requires no irrigation.
New Winery Shows Promise
The Stratus Winery presents a comprehensive adoption of many of these environmental strategies. Completed in 2005, Stratus was designed by Les Andrew Architect, with a central design role played by Sandwell Consulting Engineers. The pre-engineered building is a simple structure, "a relatively light and stiff 'portal frame' structure," according to Andrew.
Essentially a 35-foot- (11-meter-) tall box measuring 150 feet long by 100 feet wide (46 by 30 meters), the architectural accomplishment from a winemaking perspective is the total absence of columns within the 14,000-square-foot (1300-square-meter) production area. This allows ultimate flexibility during the harvest, when most of the work in a winery occurs. It also enables the winery to grow or to add or change the position of large pieces of equipment without structural complications.
Most of the exterior surface material is galvanized metal, giving an industrial appearance, but a portion of the total 22,000-square-foot (2040-square-meter) facility is devoted to customers, with a boutique shop designed by Canadian interior designer Diego Burdi. The interior echoes the design of the bottle labels, creating a cohesive brand image for the consumer.
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