Sunday, August 12, 2007


A Gehry Signature in the Napa Valley - New York Times

World famous architect Frank Gehry designed the Hall Winery in the Napa Valley. The entire project is not obtrusive and fits in perfectly with the landscape.

The winery is the latest — and by many measures, the most ambitious — addition to the Napa landscape, where showcase wineries have sprouted like vines since the construction of the Clos Pegase winery, designed by Michael Graves, in 1987. The Hall Winery is on Highway 29 near St. Helena, on the site of the former Napa Valley Wine Co-op, which, before Prohibition, turned out roughly 40 percent of the area’s wine, according to Craig Hall, the chairman of the Hall Financial Group, a private investment firm based in Dallas. Mr. Hall bought the winery in 2003 with his wife, Kathryn, who was ambassador to Austria for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The project encompasses 120,000 square feet of space that will include modern wine production facilities and the restoration of an original stone winery building, built in 1885, that had been hidden by a large metal warehouse erected in the 1930s. The centerpiece of the design is a 10,000-square-foot tasting room made of glass, stone, plaster and wood, and topped by undulating trellises in Mr. Gehry’s signature style. The trellises will be made of wood or lightweight concrete to harmonize with the bucolic surroundings.

The winery buildings will also incorporate 40,000 square feet of solar panels and undertake other energy-efficient measures. The project — expected to be completed in 2010 at a cost of more than $100 million— will be built in three phases, allowing the Halls to continue to make their lush cabernet, merlot and sauvignon blanc using the existing facilities.

And rather than settle for a lesser-known architect for the new Hall Winery, the Halls set their sights on Mr. Gehry, whose famous designs include the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Through friends, they arranged for him to come to Napa in the fall of 2003. Upon viewing the sweeping vista of vineyards and mountains with his associate, Edwin Chan, Mr. Gehry agreed to a deal on the spot.

Capitalizing on the cachet of their famous designer, the Halls say they plan to make the winery a destination, where visitors could take one of several tours that will be offered of the winemaking facilities, the architecture and artwork. “This is what Napa is good at,” Mr. Hall said. “I think we can do that better than others.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr. Gehry, dressed in black, mingled with the assembled guests, which included Jerry Brown, California’s former governor and now its attorney general; Paul Pelosi Sr., an investment banker based in San Francisco and the husband of Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker; and the winemaker Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, whose Mission-style winery in Napa was designed in the 1960s by Cliff May and was a pioneer among Napa wineries built after Prohibition.

“With the artful combination of the historic and the new, the natural and the human-made,” Mr. Gehry said, “it is our intention that the new Hall Winery will be an experience that is unique to and harmonious with the beauty of the Napa Valley.”

Mr. Hall, too, said he hoped that the winery would become an important addition to the Napa landscape, as well as a symbol of the area’s rise in the winemaking world.

“We have a chance to make a difference, to create something that will stand the test of time,” he said. The way a great wine does.


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