Wineglasses Rising

Our wine practice is dedicated to producing designs where site sensitivity, structure and nuance are favored above all else. The combination of exceptional sites and local influences make our wine-related projects a truly wonderful place for guests. To best convey the individuality of each site, we try to be modern in our thinking and classic in our approach. From California’s Napa Valley to the vineyards outside Beijing, SB Architects has married its expertise in hospitality and mixed-use design to create unique wine country and farm-to-table destinations. With iconic projects such as Calistoga Ranch and Farmhouse Inn to two of our most recent urban hotels in downtown Napa, SB Architects has a long history working in wine regions. In recent years, more and more vineyards have sought to make a statement not just with their wines but with the design of their facilities, enlisting architects to reimagine the modern wine country. Wineries and resorts are no longer mere side trips en route to the main attraction—they have become destinations in their own right. World-class food and drink, stunning architecture, luxury lodgings, idyllic settings—this is the stuff epicurean dreams are made of.

The historic stone building at Freemark Abbey has been an iconic Napa Valley landmark for well over 100 years. Originally constructed in 1886, the structure graces the label of one of the valley’s legacy wineries, renowned for its participation in the pivotal Judgement of Paris wine tasting of 1976 –  a distinction that placed the Napa Valley squarely on the world wine stage. The genesis of Freemark Abbey dates back to 1881 when Josephine and John Tychson purchased 147 acres in the Napa Valley. Five years later, after John’s death, Josephine built her original redwood winery on the current site of Freemark Abbey in St. Helena. Josephine earned a place in the history books as the first female vintner in California, making the winery that would become Freemark Abbey groundbreaking in more ways than one.

Originally less than half its current size, the stone building at Freemark Abbey was organically built over time, as more temperature-controlled space was needed for wine-making functions, (stone makes perfect sense for this purpose). Far from a professional effort, the original structure was constructed by the same hands that farmed the grapes and made the wine, in the historical tradition of a barn-raising. The various stages of construction are evident in the different stonework and coursing patterns throughout the rambling structure, and in the hand-hewn quality of the stone and mortar walls. Over time, the historic significance of this naturally beautiful structure was obscured as additions covered up the original facade, new uses unrelated to winemaking filled the street-facing spaces, and rear spaces were under-utilized. Jackson Family Wines, which purchased the historic winery in 2006, sought to restore both the history and beauty of the rough-hewn structure, re-connecting it to its history and making it a compelling destination in the modern era. To learn more about the history of the site, click here or watch a short video on the making of Freemark Abbey Winery.

Offering the elegance of authentic traditions, Vintage House connects you to the best of the Napa Valley. The hotel opened in October after an extensive renovation. The 22-acre Vintage Estate property, located in Yountville, includes Vintage House, Villagio Inn & Spa, and V Marketplace. The 80 bungalow-style abodes are tucked quietly amidst the lush landscape of The Estate, which is ideally located in the center of Yountville, walking distance from many of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants and world-renowned wineries.

As part of a multi-million renovation, The Estate teamed with SB Architects and Hirsch Bedner Associates to transform their Vintage Estate property. Guests will enjoy the beautifully redesigned guestrooms, new pool area, and lobby experience — all renovated with a program designed with today’s discerning luxury traveler in mind. “Yountville is such an exceptional place in the heart of the Napa Valley, and we are honored to be able to further enhance the legacy of this extraordinary property,” said Steve Davino, general manager. The intimate Vintage House embodies the spirit of California wine country and establishes itself as a place where the Napa Valley’s warm culture mixes gracefully with a modern and relaxing vibe. Surrounded by lush landscaping and calming water features, Vintage House and its public spaces seamlessly blend into the treasured destination. Click here to learn more about this beautifully transformed boutique hotel in the heart of the Napa Valley.

Beijing’s newest luxury getaway, Luneng Wen’An Winery & Hotel, celebrated its official opening in 2017. Set on an idyllic lakeside site south of the city, the resort includes two hotels and a full production winery. A contemporary take on a traditional agrarian wine country destination, this resort sits on 1,546 acres with a 58,000 square-meter 236-key hotel with 4,500 square meter of event and conference space, and a 5,910 square-meter winery. “Amidst rapid growth in Chinese wine markets, Beijing is climbing the list to be one of the top wine producers in the world,” said Scott Lee, president of SB Architects. “Of the numerous wineries we have designed internationally, including several currently in the pipeline, and one not far from here, this marks the firm’s first winery-resort to open in China, and it’s a very exciting time for us to be involved in such a project.”

The classically-inspired resort provides a luxury experience bounded by views of the water, botanical gardens and the surrounding vineyards. Set upon an island in the middle of a 362-acre lake is the 400-key hotel, which exudes a sort of rustic sophistication. The hotel and its amenities, including a full-service spa and conference center, are solely accessible by bridges. At the opposite end of the lake, the winery is reminiscent of an elegant European chateau. Near the winery is the town center, a mixed-use village, which ranges from one to three stories, with street-front retail space and residences in the upper levels. “We designed the resort to take a cue from the architecture language of wine destinations across Europe, from elegant French Chateaux to bucolic English hunting lodges, yet be completely unlike anything else – especially in this region,” said Lee. “While tying in inspiration from some of the most renowned wine countries around the globe, we intended to make this project one that truly puts this destination on the map, amidst what will surely be a growing number of wineries in the region.”

The resort’s design concept embraces the natural surroundings of the countryside and its scenic waterfront site. Overall, the landscape design celebrates the inherent beauty of each change of season. With the intention of providing a lavish, yet authentic wine-country experience, the hotel was crafted to be warm and approachable, with slate roofs, heavy timber, and a natural color scheme. To further enhance the atmosphere, the dense configuration of the town center is reminiscent of a European village, yet boasts its own, relaxed ambiance. To learn more, here is a short video on the growing wine market in China and two of our wine resorts.