Stryker Sonoma Winery in Sonoma, California designed by architects Amy Nielsen and Richard Schuh’s Sonoma based architecture studio Nielsen : Schuh Architects. This winery seeks to embody the drama of winemaking, taking cues from the Alexander Valley setting. The natural curvature of the terrain is left intact, and the buildings and site layout are designed to reflect the geometry of the vineyard rows. Viewed from the approach below, the structures emerge from the rugged 100 year old zinfandel vines, but lie below the mountain backdrop. The winery draws advantages from the site, with the hillside slope providing for thermal efficiency of the below-grade cellar. Grape sorting and fermentation occur on the main level; gravity flow minimizes the need for pumping from the fermentation level to barrels. The design and functional organization of the spaces are driven by the winemaking process.
Visitors can view handcrafted winemaking from small, vineyard-specific lots. Degrees of transparency, created with abundant glazing, and cast concrete sun-screens, integrate vineyard and vinemaking activities for the visitor. After passing along an arbor covered walk, then over a bridge, the winery experience culminates in the wine tasting area. Glass curtainwalls of the tasting room pavilion open up to the vineyard landscape, and overlook the barrel cellar, embedded in the slope of the hillside. The materials of construction are expressed: rubble stone terrace walls tie the building to the site, board cast concrete creates the core of the winery, light metal framework overlaid with wood and raw metal roofing contrast with the heavier materials.
Concrete screening rises from the old zinfandel vines, bridging over the cellar level from the arced stone terrace. Degrees of transparency, created with cast concrete screening, delicate steel framing and glass, contrast with the solidity of stone terrace walls, emerging from the vineyard. The submerged barrel cellar is flanked by the upper level stainless steel cellar and tasting room, with the Mayacamas mountains creating the backdrop. Approaching the arbor-covered entry walk, concrete louvers screen the stainless steel cellar to reveal the winemaking process. Passing the arced terrace and cellar, the arbor shaded walk concludes with a vineyard overlook at the tasting room entry. Interlocking steel plates, pinned to the rough board-formed concrete walls, create a wine rack within the private tasting room. The textures of the tasting room wall are seen from the east balcony.
Oxidized steel plate doors enclose the cellar entry beneath the tasting room. Concrete walls form the core of the winery provide thermal efficiency of below grade cellaring – slender steel trusses support the wood roof framing above (Photo: Mark Darley/esto). Roof truss framing engages with the concrete walls – windows allow views into the cellar, and natural light between barrel stacks. Concrete louvers enclose the stainless steel cellar walls, for abundant daylight, wind protection and shading, while visitors observe winemaking activities. Below the entry bridge, the wine library cellar enters through the arced rubble stone terrace wall. The final panel of the precast screening is placed on the overlook balcony. An evening wedding celebration in the tasting room (Photo: Julie Mikos). Viewed from the tasting room overlook, the cellar is set up for dining (Photo: Julie Mikos).
Amy Nielsen and Richard Schuh are fuonders of Nielsen : Schuh Architects. They pursue ideas expressive of structure and refined use of materials, with dynamic flowing spaces that become a part of the setting. They seek a modern sensibility that also embraces a richness and depth of character. Their priorities include site sensitivity, meaningful functional relationships, and environmental sustainability – balanced by a personalized approach to the process of creating architecture with their clients.