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Wine tasting could be considered somewhat of a triathlon. Yes, we said it. It involves endurance; drinking glass after glass of a variety of wines. It also requires attention and focus as you socialize, imbibe and learn the history and terroir of every glass poured. With good friends by your side and countless glasses consumed, you will likely feel satiated and a little closer to being an amateur sommelier. Let’s just say, it’s an event we always make time for.
For a high-design winery to host your next wine-tasting, we have garnered some of the most architecturally impressive spaces with both ambiance and quality wines aplenty, from California to Cape Town. Although these modern facilities reflect engineering ingenuity and design brilliance, they are also built upon landscapes that have rich histories, telling a story of design and winemaking paired beautifully together. From biodynamic wines to breathtaking buildings, these are the five famous architectural wineries we are loving now.
The awe-inspiring archways and stairwells crafted from terracotta, wood and steel sweep across the vineyard; drawing guests right into this walk-able sculpture.
Mauro Puccini / Antinori Nel Chianti Classico Winery
ANTINORI NEL CHIANTI CLASSICO WINERY | Tuscany, Italy
Whether you are immersing yourself in the historic capital of Rome or summering along the coast of Positano, Italy is where you go to indulge the palette, cleanse the spirit and educate yourself on European culture. It is also one of the obvious choices for a memorable wine tasting, which leads us to an iconic destination along the Tuscan landscape.
Designed to be an extension of this most picturesque region of Italy, Antinori nel Chianti Classico Winery is an architectural exclamation across the famous wine region. The family-run and high-design winery reflects the history of the ancient wine producing area, Chianti Classico, which was officially deemed one of Italy’s wine zones in 1716 and is one of the leaders in Italian wine production.
The Antinori family is upholding this legacy through their own impressive estate. After seven years of design and engineering, the completed building is both the headquarters and an architecturally striking winery. Designed by Marco Casamonti, founding partner of Archea Associati and engineering firm Hydea, the architecture of the winery is steeped in earth tones and complemented by floor-to-ceiling glass doors, wide terraces, sky-high ceilings, and a few unexpected circular holes above the vineyard roof where sunlight soaks the spaces below.
Antinori Nel Chianti Classico Winery
The awe-inspiring archways and stairwells crafted from terracotta, wood and steel sweep across the vineyard; drawing guests right into this walk-able sculpture. Aesthetics aside, their focus on sustainability ensures low environmental impacts and high-energy efficiency for a beautiful balance between the natural landscape and the craft of winemaking.
Avid wine-drinkers who appreciate the process in which the grapes undergo will like to know that this modern facility utilizes gravity flow winemaking for a gentler handling of the grapes that preserves their aromatic compounds without using mechanical pumps. The result? “A more balanced and elegant wine with supple tannins,” says the Antinori family.
A visit to this famous winery is not complete with a trip to the rooftop restaurant Rinuccio 1180. This gastronomic experience is paired with flowing glasses of Chianti Classico that can all be enjoyed while glancing out to the Tuscan hillsides dotted with olive groves and charming churches. This is the Italy we know and love.
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MERUS WINERY | Napa Valley, California
Napa Valley upholds a reputation for its acclaimed wineries that comprise this stunning locale in Northern California. We have previously covered the family-run Palmaz Wineries and the local wine train that takes visitors across the region via a grandiose dining car. And this time we head to a rather unassuming winery that holds a history as rich as the Cabernet they make.
Merus wines started from humble beginnings. Founded by Erika J. Gottl and Mark Herold with their garage-made wine, which would then develop into an internationally renowned vintage bottle from 1998 that would signal the family to expand. In 2007, they partnered with vintner Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines to continue their vision and find a home for Merus Wines.
They discovered the Rossini Winery & Ranch, originally developed by the Italian-Swiss Carlo Rossini family in 1800s, which had laid abandoned for 78 years due to prohibition. It was the perfect place to grow their brand on the land of this family’s legacy. From garage to a renovated ghost winery, the high-design, famous Merus Winery would become a Napa Valley landmark with custom winemaking equipment and 7,000-square-feet of underground barrel storage.
By infusing the space with black granite, red walls, repurposed wine barrels and accents of black oak, it feels as if you are stepping into a high-end New York City bar with the added touch of Foscarini chandeliers that glitter from above.
Through gentle destemming and whole-berry fermentation in state-of-the-art concrete stainless steel tanks, as well as fermentation temperatures climbing higher than the standard wine practies, Merus wines are fruit-forward with velvety tannins. Their vintage blends are paired with new French oak barrels and only those with the most outstanding flavor profile are selected for the final Merus assemblage.
For those who are as enamored by wine as they are by high design, the wineries underground caves will impress. Their second tasting area set beneath the earth were done by Merus co-founder Erika Gottl’s Amsterdam-based UXUS design consultancy and evoke a sophisticated subterranean experience.
By infusing the space with black granite, red walls, repurposed wine barrels and accents of black oak, it feels as if you are stepping into a high-end New York City bar with the added touch of Foscarini chandeliers that glitter from above. The invitation-only winery and tasting salon offers guests the chance to try something different in this famous Napa Valley winery, something that can be felt as much as it can be tasted.
Designed by renowned French architect Christian de Portzamparc, the space opened in 2011 and fuses modern technology implemented by human intelligence resulting in wines that are very much of the earth.
©Gerard Uferas / Chateau Cheval Blanc Winery
CHATEAU CHEVAL BLANC WINERY | Saint-Émilion, France
Whether headed to the City of Lights for an evening of dining in secrecy or traveling to the romantic landscape of Provence with plenty of rosé wine to pour, a trip to France would be incomplete without a visit to the vineyards…Champagne, anyone?
At Chateau Cheval Blanc Winery, the best of both architecture and wine can be enjoyed. Set on a pastoral vineyard in the Bordeaux wine region, the high-design winery seems to breathe across the grassy lands in the form of two woven white ribbons that are occupied by the cellar. Designed by renowned French architect Christian de Portzamparc, the space opened in 2011 and fuses modern technology implemented by human intelligence resulting in wines that are very much of the earth.
©C.Burban / Chateau Cheval Blanc Winery
The edited space inside is both organized and organic-feeling, welcoming guests into light-filled rooms for an experience that feels like a breath-of-fresh-air. The building, with its large-scale yet romantic design, received the International Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum museum and is regarded for its distinct avant-garde approach. Paying attention to its environmental impact and wellness of its caretakers, the famous winery saves energy, has a water waste management system and acoustic comfort for employee well-being.
The winery’s architecture and design are a nod to the precious liquid being fermented inside by using only the highest quality materials joined by aesthetic symmetry that dominates the cellars and vat rooms. A visit to the property invites guests to intimate and aromatic tastings of their Cheval Blanc, where you can deepen your history lesson that dates the Saint-Émilion wine region back to the prehistoric period.
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BODEGAS YSIOS WINERY | La Rioja, Spain
Traveling to Spain reminds us of Flamenco dancing in Grenada and savory paella enjoyed along the streets of Seville amongst the Hispano-Moorish architecture. Another dreamy locale in the diverse landscape of Spain is Basque Country, where historic ruins follow the striking Mediterranean coastline. Steering our sights towards the steep mountainsides inland, we find ourselves at one of the most famous wineries named Bodegas Ysios Winery.
Completed in 2001 by Spanish/Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava, this masterful structure embodies both impressive scale and design innovation. Its sculptural design uses warm woods and aluminum to craft an imposing yet welcoming space that mimics the ridgeline of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range it is set against. With a silhouette that demands to be seen, the winery is a dynamic property only enhanced by its boutique wines produced in the variety of microclimates and soils in the heart of Rioja Alavesa.
Its sculptural design uses warm woods and aluminum to craft an imposing yet welcoming space that mimics the ridgeline of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range it is set against.
Alberto Loyo / Shutterstock
A private tour of the winery invites guests to immerse themselves in the vineyards wrapped beneath the shadows of the undulating roof line. The building is comprised of a pavilion, barrel rooms, processing rooms, a split-level display area and a ground-floor tasting room that could be the interior of a grand cathedral with ceiling-high windows sliced into the wood arches that lean over the landscape. It all makes for a remarkable experience that greets guests with the rich aroma of wine and leaves them with wide eyes marveling at this winery’s architecture and high design.
WATERKLOOF WINES | Cape Town, South Africa
ICONIC LIFE’s journey across South Africa took readers from Table Mountain to Boulders Beach and to vineyards with some of the best views of Cape Town. One of the most design-forward estates we are loving right now is the one at Waterkloof Wines where honesty and transparency are the leading ethos behind the winery’s architecture and winemaking.
The striking property won the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Award for Architecture and Landscapes in 2012 and was executed by Australian-based Castle Rock Design, whose focus was to enhance the natural textures and organic elements used in the structure. The tasting lounge clad with a fireplace, bronze sculptures and large-scale art leads into the “glass box” restaurant that becomes the centerpiece of the property where it sits above the fynbos and vine exterior.
The glass-encased cellar and restaurant float elegantly from the land it was erected on, allowing guests inside to take in the vast vineyards beyond with uncompromising views.
The glass-encased cellar and restaurant float elegantly from the land it was erected on, allowing guests inside to take in the vast vineyards beyond with uncompromising views. This masculine dining space maintains a refined décor with interiors done by Cape Town’s own Frank Böhm Studio. Take note of the bespoke counters, red hardwood floors and timber beams above.
During your visit, you will quickly learn that sustainable wine farming is crucial to this famous winery, reminding the industry that beautiful wine comes from beautiful, eco-conscious practices in equal parts. And because Europe supplies the only truly organic and biodynamic wines for purchase, like the ones sold through Dry Farm Wines, Waterkloof is trusted as one of the wineries following these strict practices. This means opting out of conventional farming (no pesticides are used) and working in harmony with the land to create full-bodied and distinct wines that you need to taste to believe.