Hirondelle House – Clos Du Val Winery

Napa, California

This French family-owned winery has been growing and making wine in Napa since 1972. Having outgrown the original tilt-up concrete winery building and ‘picnic tables on the lawn’ approach, the owner sought to expand their new wine club, and welcome members and guests with an elevated tasting experience. Working with the design team, the decision was made to abandon plans to remodel a space within the building, and add a completely new tasting destination replacing the former lawns in front of the building. The program included creating multiple indoor and outdoor tasting areas with easy flow between; private reserved spaces and communal spaces of varying sizes; maintaining positive western views of the vineyard and the Mayacamas mountain range, and encouraging bird and insect life as part of the pollination and integrated pest management programs. Design challenges included addressing highway noise and hot afternoon sun, managing storm water runoff, reducing irrigation, fertilization and maintenance of lawns, and connecting the new outdoor spaces to the architecture through thoughtful layout, grading and material selection. As always, construction and maintenance costs were of concern, leading to the selection of simple, durable materials and finishes, and the elimination of all lawns.

The owner engaged an architect to design a beautiful contemporary concrete and glass stand-alone tasting room. Referencing the materials of the existing winery but in a more contemporary style, the building features vertical board-formed concrete walls, a parapet roof, and deep, steel-framed glass doors. Cool and contemporary on the outside, the beautifully warm interiors feature polished concrete floors, reclaimed barrel wood walls and a stained wood ceiling. The entire glass wall facing the vineyard can be closed on cooler or windier days, screened, or completely opened to the shaded terrace and view. Where the new building nearly meets the old, a glass hallway leads to and provides a view through glass doors of the barrel room activity, and two flanking light wells allow natural light into the private tasting rooms. The existing Boston Ivy vines that previously covered these walls were protected during construction to provide a living wall view.

At the property entry, new board-formed entry walls, custom signage, a rolling steel gate and plantings, and updated under-plantings at the Magnolia allée along the entry drive set the tone for the new experience. The existing visitor parking area was preserved, and new concrete walls, steps and ramp create a clear procession past the existing building to the main entry of the new tasting room. Along this stretch, a permanent greeting station creates a spot for staff to welcome guests with a glass of wine during larger events or busier days. The landscape extends the tasting room into the vineyard, where board-formed walls and subtly textured concrete paving create an exterior terrace shaded by specimen London Plane Trees and featuring a linear board formed water feature where birds bathe and drink, that helps to mask nearby traffic noise. The landscape architect was able to work with the owner to reorient the vineyard rows to not only align with the architecture, but to deviate from the typical parallel rows, and form a broad half circle embracing a pollinator meadow view garden beyond the water feature. Hidden within the meadow and behind the water feature is the bioretention basin that collects and cleans the storm water from the terraces and roof. Overflow and vineyard runoff make their way to the existing pond near the entry, which has been cleaned out and replanted with riparian plant material.

Accessible ramps lead down 18” to decomposed granite terraces at vineyard level, flanking the main terrace, each shaded by Southern Magnolias in a nod to the existing Magnolias lining the entry drive. The perimeters of each terrace are planted with ‘boule’ gardens of mixed shrubs and perennials that grow naturally in spheres. The north terrace features a custom board formed fire feature, built-in seating, and a hospitality station for group tastings and events.

Beyond this terrace, in an area never planted to vines due to the presence of waste water leach lines, a half-acre insectary garden was designed to attract and provide habitat and food for native insects, birds and reptiles, as part of the integrated pest management and pollination plan for the property. Simple decomposed granite paths wind through a mix of native shrubs, perennials and grasses, supplemented by native hedgerow seed mix for seasonally wet drainage areas. The new tasting destination has been dubbed Hirondelle House, French for ‘Swallow’, in honor of the Swallows that have traditionally nested in the eaves

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Architecture:  Michael Guthrie + Co. Architects

Interior Design:  Erin Martin Design

General Construction:  Trainor Builders

Landscape Construction:  Price Landscape Services

Photography:  Courtesy of Rocco Ceselin