Wine Down Eugene September 25 – October 1
A new era of architecturally stunning tasting rooms appears to be on the rise in Oregon wine country. With recent visits to the contemporary and recently completed tasting rooms at both Stoller Family Estate and Sokol Blosser; along with, a hot-off-the-press news release on the brand new Saffron Fields Vineyards, tasting rooms with no options other than standing at the bar and tasting a few wines are a thing of the past. These state-of-the-art tasting rooms are an absolute delight for the senses.
Not just visually stunning, but Stoller, Sokol Blosser and Saffron Fields tasting rooms were all built with sustainability in mind. With a focus on having the least amount of impact on the environment, each of these new tasting rooms have special features that create environmentally sound atmospheres. Each tasting room has art work and areas for wine enthusiasts to sit and enjoy a glass or bottle of wine while taking in the breathtaking views of Oregon’s wine country.
At Stoller Family Estate, where I had a chance to sit down with winemaker Melissa Burr for a spectacular tasting, sitting on the patio of the tasting room while looking out over the vineyards was simply magnificent. The design of the building, with large garage-style doors made entirely of glass and steel, welcome wine enthusiasts with a gorgeous view of the vineyards as blocks of vines roll up the hills beyond the tasting room. Inside, the wood slatted ceiling rolls and tips from side to side, mimicking the rolling hills of the Stoller property. The wood used for the remarkably striking ceiling was salvaged from the 2002 Southern Oregon Biscuit Fire, where nearly 500,000 acres were burned. A solar paneled roof was designed to handle 100 percent of the buildings power and energy, and a living roof just below the solar panels can be seen through windows inside the tasting room.
Sampling wine at the new Sokol-Blosser tasting room is just as magnificent as it is at Stoller. Second generation and now co-owners of Sokol Blosser, Alison and Alex Sokol Blosser, have followed in their mother’s footsteps (who built the first LEED certified winery in the U.S.) and aligned the new tasting room with Living Building Challenge – a new gold standard certification for sustainable building. Designed to offer a dynamic visitor experience for wine lovers as well as followers of architecture and design, the new tasting room at Sokol Blosser literally pays homage to the source of its bounty, where guests can seamlessly enjoy the vineyards and landscape.
The building’s low profile lends the appearance of being a single level when in fact the structure is built both above and below ground, emulating the character of the grapevines while allowing for wine storage in a naturally cool cellar. The exterior is united with the interior in part by the use of striated wood cladding, a motif derived from the vineyard rows and the region’s vernacular agricultural buildings. The wood also surfaces all interior walls, floors and ceilings.
A receptionist greets guests as they walk in, and there’s a special Wine Library where we were able to sit down and taste some of the outstanding Sokol Blosser wines, including their Evolution line of wines. There’s a kitchen where cooking classes and special events can take place, and a special wine club members only area with private outdoor seating and bar to table service. And just like Stoller, solar panels are used to power the entire facility.
Sticking to a similar theme as Stoller and Sokol Blosser, the brand new Saffron Fields Vineyards tasting room was also designed to flow with the landscape and vineyards that surround the artistically designed building. Although I haven’i had the chance (yet) to visit Saffron Fields Vineyards, the focus of the design was to bring people and the environment together, and there’s even a restorative Japanese garden just outside the new tasting room – to inspire an atmosphere of contemplation and ease.
Eugene architect, Richard Shugar of 2fORM Architecture, aimed to let the natural form and function of the site determine the structure of the finished project. An old dairy barn that sat on the property where the tasting room is now, was logistically impossible to use as a winery, so the Douglas fir and cedar wood from the barn was salvaged and incorporated into the new facility.
Clearly, tasting rooms in Oregon wine country are becoming destinations; once you step foot into these stunning facilities, you won’t ever want to leave – wine lovers are encouraged to swirl, sip, savor and stay.
Follow me over to my award-winning website, WineJulia.com, to read about the fabulous wines I tasted at Stoller and Sokol Blosser.