Freemark Abbey by SB Architects for Wine Wednesday

The Rebirth of Freemark Abbey – A Photo Journal

Following an extensive renovation, the acclaimed Freemark Abbey winery in California’s Napa Valley has reopened to reveal a total transformation of its century-old stone building, which now houses a high-end restaurant and visitor center. San Francisco firms SB Architects and BraytonHughes Design Studio led the design of the project, which pays homage to Freemark Abbey’s past while introducing several complementary contemporary features. The original stonework dating from 1886 is highlighted by custom-designed steel features, including exposed steel trusses with gracefully arched undersides, modeled after the trusses in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. The structure’s lack of windows and natural light is rectified by a new 6 wide ridge skylight that runs nearly the length of the ridgeline, and a new clerestory, which raises the roof line 3 above the original height of the stone walls. Reclaimed redwood from the original cellar built on the property has been incorporated into the building. The winery’s leisure facilities now include California-inspired yakitori restaurant Two Birds One Stone, led by acclaimed chefs Sang Yoon and Douglas Kean, which takes advantage of the existing openings in the facade to create an indoor/ outdoor space. There is also a renovated tasting room, originally opened in 1949 as one of the first in Napa Valley; a restored barrel room which now acts as a space for wine education workshops; a new-look wine library, one of the largest in the US; and a market café and courtyard with views of the estate.

We’ve assembled a series of historic, construction and finished photographs to create a “walking tour” of the project – a photo journal that brings to life the process of re-imagining that gave birth to the new Freemark Abbey.



This historic photo shows the famous facade, which graces the Freemark Abbey label, in its early state – rustic and hand-hewn, constructed over time to meet the winery’s changing needs. Built of stone gathered from the surrounding valley, this was a utilitarian structure, but with a beauty born of its direct connection to the land.



Post-renovation, the facade of the Freemark Abbey stone building looks much the same, preserving the landmark. This photo shows the connection between the two branches of the original structure, the six-foot stone walls of the original topped with a new clerestory. New metal trusses rising from the clerestory create the new, soaring spaces within.



In this historic photograph, the unpaved road runs just in front of the stone building’s false facade, which has been preserved and enhanced.



The street-facing facade opens to a new, outdoor terrace filled with seating, fire pits, fountains and – around the corner – an outdoor yakitori bar for Two Birds One Stone, the new restaurant created by celebrity chefs Douglas Keene and Sang Yoon.



The building’s stone work and roof lines illustrate a structure built over time, as needs changed and grew. Though each wall had a pattern and logic of its own, no single wall – or section of wall – was the same. The design team had to reconfigure five different floor heights, numerous roof lines, marrying them to create a single, cohesive destination.



New stonework seamlessly blends with the old to raise the roof height at the rear of the building. New sliding barn doors mimic the look of the original doors but tuck away behind the stone walls rather than opening outward, creating a seemless transition between the terrace and the barrel room, tasting areas and event spaces within. A “door within a door” allows these custom-designed barn doors to meet emergency egress requirements.




The roof comes off and the stone walls are carefully preserved.



A new clerestory elevates the walls, setting the stage for the steel trusses that will allow the inner spaces to soar.



The steel trusses are installed.



A new, enhanced entry echoes the lines of the original, visually connecting the stone building’s two wings. The structure of the new clerestory adds height to the roof line.



Two new ridge skylights – one in restaurant and one in the stone building’s central event space, flood the formerly dark interior spaces with light.




The new entry to the event space and Two Birds One Stone.



The outdoor terrace for Two Birds One Stone occupies a formerly under-utilized space fronting the main thoroughfare, creating a dramatic, immensely appealing identity from the street.



The interior of the new restaurant illustrates every element of the SB Architects’ design solution: enhanced indoor/outdoor spaces, dramatic lighting, an abundance of natural light, and a perfect marriage of the rustic original elements of the structure with the clean, modern lines of the new construction. The understated elegance of the interiors by Brayton Hughes Design Studios form a perfect complement to the architecture.



Architecture, lighting and understated interior furnishings converge for a perfect balance of old and new.



Custom-designed barn doors allow the new multi-purpose event space to open up to the adjacent entry and restaurant, or close off for private use.



A new board room accommodates private tastings, meetings and smaller gatherings. Here again, the rustic stone, new wood and steel architectural elements, lighting and understated furnishings come together perfectly.



Wood floor joints set into the stone walls illustrate the former height of the floors in this portion of the building. Instead of covering them up, the design team left them cuts intact as a reminder of the building’s history. Dramatically lit from below, they become a subtle work of art.



A curving stair leads to the building’s lower level. Formerly limited to barrel and equipment storage, the renovated space houses the barrel room (the building is still zoned as a working winery), a tasting area that opens onto the rear patio, and a VIP tasting room & library for club events. A retractable glass wall allows the barrel room to be used for larger events.



A new lower level tasting area opens directly onto the rear patio. The newly-created stone arch at right echoes the building’s original archways, and is virtually indistinguishable from the originals.