Winery Design in China – Defining China’s Wine-Making Culture

As China’s interest in wine continues to grow, some key players in this vast country are shifting their focus  from simply purchasing and enjoying wine from around the world, to growing grapes and making wine within China. In the process, they are creating China’s modern-day wine culture from the ground up. SB Architects has had the opportunity to help define the culture in China as we design wineries for a number of new wine-making ventures throughout the country.

One of those projects, the Golden Pebble Winery Resort, takes the concept even further. Not only will this be the first winery in the Liaodong Province, this project will expand the making of wine into a resort concept with wine-making as its cultural focal point. The 200-hectare development will include a wine-production facility, winery and visitor’s center, viticulture research center, retail village, boutique hotel and several hundred residential villas, all set within a rich, fertile valley long used for agriculture. With this project, the development group is essential creating their own wine country, so it is important that they get it right.

Bruce Wright, Vice President and Principal of SB Architects, recently sat down with Susan Kime from to talk about the SB Architects’ role in defining China’s wine-making culture.

URBAN ARCHES — When you first heard of the idea of a Chinese winery, what did you think?  

BRUCE — I thought it was the best idea I’d heard in a long time! We are thrilled to have the opportunity to design the first winery in the province, which we believe will become one of the country’s leading areas for wine-making.

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Golden Pebble Winery Resort: Boutique Hotel, Dalian, China

URBAN ARCHES — The Golden Pebble Winery Resort is a fascinating idea, combining the best of the winery idea with the best of the resort idea — it will include a full production winery, a hotel, a commercial village and residential villas.   What dimensions are SB Architects be working on?  Can you discuss the concepts involved, and how are creating the interplay and/or fusion of East/West architectural concepts? 

BRUCE — China’s exploding wine market has been well-documented, but the country’s wine-making culture in the modern era is still in its infancy. With the Golden Pebble Winery resort, we have the unique opportunity to help define what the culture of wine-making looks and feels like in China, particularly on the Liaodong Peninsula. This will be the first winery in the Liaoning province, and we are honored to be designing all elements of the winery and resort.

The Golden Pebble Beach National Resort on the Liaodong Peninsula is one of the most well-known destinations in China, about an hour flight from Beijing. This area is famous for its beaches and golf, and known for its air quality and temperate climate. The ancient city of Dalian, on the Liaodong Peninsula, is a port city, making it a melting pot of cultural influences. Not surprisingly, the government has targeted this area for tourist development. The idea is to draw the destination inward from the coastline into the adjacent valleys, very much the way that California’s Carmel Valley – and its wine-making culture – has developed in concert with the coastal destinations of Carmel and Monterey. Basically, this is a great location for a vacation and a great place to grow grapes, so it makes the sense to bring the two together.

URBAN ARCHES — What do you know of the history, either agrarian or urban, of the area in which the Golden Pebble Winery will be? What grows there now?  What kind of soil does it have? What kind of climate is it?  

BRUCE — There is a history of agriculture in this valley – they have been growing table grapes here for a long time, and orchards are common. The climate is temperate, with four distinct seasons. The mountains on the Liaodong Peninsula are dissected by rivers and waterways, and most are narrow. This provides a dramatic setting for our project, which runs along the valley floor, surrounded by terraced vineyards on either side.

URBAN ARCHES — It looks as if the winery development has an eco-sensitive, green component to it also, a kind of homage to the viticulture that helps produce the grapes. Can you discuss this, in terms of architectural design and materials?

BRUCE — Whether it is thoroughly modern or historically based, the best architecture is always an authentic expression of site, culture and purpose. We were inspired by the humble agrarian structures existing in the valley – particularly the ancient farmhouses and trellised grape arbors we saw all around us.

The very modern Welcome Center – the first structure you see upon entering the valley – is flanked by beautifully simple buildings that were inspired by those farmhouses, with their stone walls, simple massing and details, and their solid connection to the earth. This local precedent gives the welcome center a sense of belonging – instead of being overly thematic, we have rooted the design in local tradition in an effort to create an authentic expression of this new, local wine culture. Simultaneously, the Welcome Center’s central pavilion is completely modern – an inverted glass lantern that creates a beacon at the entrance to the valley. It’s a collection of buildings that speaks to the past and the future at the same time.

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Golden Pebble Winery Welcome Center, Dalian, China

Interestingly, this modern pavilion will house a sculpture garden, and highlight the work of local artists – fostering a strong connection to the local people and culture. The commercial village, which meanders up the valley floor alongside an existing creek, is made up of one and two-story structures. It will house artists and artisans and provide a place for local art and culture to flourish. At the end of the valley, the winery and vintners club will look down on the valley below. All of the resort elements employ a similar agrarian vocabulary that reflects the hands-on culture of wine-making.

URBAN ARCHES — The hotel, according to the literature, will capture the essence of Napa Valley, with a lot of indoor-outdoor spaces. SB Architects created one of the great resorts in the Napa area, Calistoga Ranch.  Would you take similar ideas from that resort  and meld them with the topography of this area?  If so, what ideas might you use?

BRUCE — Thank you! Calistoga Ranch is one of our favorite projects too. While every project we undertake is a unique response to the site, culture and history, Calistoga Ranch and the Golden Pebble Winery Resort share similar climate, topography and agrarian history. The design solutions are different for each resort, but many of the big ideas behind those solutions are the same: connection to the vineyards, strong relationship between indoors and out, simple architectural forms, local materials, the confidence to let the architecture take a back seat to the vineyards and the views. The physical proximity of our headquarters in San Francisco to the Napa Valley gives us a unique perspective on the wine country.

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Golden Pebble Winery, Dalian, China