When I was in Healdsburg checking out H2Hotel, I took a little detour to Medlock Ames' recently opened tasting room and bar, which is on the site and in the footprint of the century-old Alexander Valley Bar and Store, just north of downtown Healdsburg. Architect Luke Wade, builder Andy Bannister, and Medlock Ames' general manager Kenneth Rochford showed me around.
"The owners wanted something clean, but with a lot of character," says Wade. The walls are vertical-grain Douglas fir, with a gray wash. A zinc bar floats in the middle of the space, small tables accommodate couples, and communal tables are ideal for large groups and tasting bar spillover, lit with reclaimed pendant lighting from a Czech warehouse. Photo by Joe Fletcher.
"Tasting rooms can be really fast and furious," says Rochford. "We want to slow down the experience, and build a sense of community, and a place where people can break bread together." Photo by Joe Fletcher.
In good weather, the triple-hung windows can open all the way, blurring the boundary between inside and out. Photo by Joe Fletcher.
In addition to wine, they also sell jars of canned and pickled vegetables, grown on site.
Marked only with a discrete neon 'Cocktails' sign, the speakeasy bar is in the former general store's walk-in cooler, in the back of the tasting room. The tin ceiling, dark wood walls and bar, and velvet upholstered booth create an intimate atmosphere. There's also a restored retro photo booth in the back.
Sustainable-minded builder Andy Bannister talks about the property's eco-elements. Behind him is the bio-swale, an aquatic garden that cleans the property's waste water before it ends up in the nearby creek.
The landscape architects reduced the site's irrigation needs by fifty percent by using drought-tolerant plants and smart controllers on the irrigation. The gardens bloom with aromatic plants like chocolate mint geraniums, lavender, and pineapple guava, used to flavor and garnish drinks in the bar.
Here's a cool detail in one of the outdoor picnic tables.
This is Medlock Ames' refreshingly graphic and understated wine label. In the background is a pizza oven; on weekends they fire it up and pass out pies to visitors. The dough and sauce is home-made, and the toppings all come from the garden on site.