written by:
August 16, 2010

Thousands of oenophiles trek to California’s Napa Valley each year to indulge in its scenic vistas and celebrated wineries. While the Chandons and Mondavis of the Valley are open to the throngs of tourists who ogle at the modern-day spectacle that is wine tasting, one remains closed on most days. And on the rare occasions that the Dominus Estate opens its silver gates to the public, it does so for architectural tours—not tastings. When I took one look at the building’s modernist sensibilities, I instantly knew why.

Completed in 1997, the Dominus Estate was the first project built in the United States by Swiss architects Herzog + de Meuron.
Completed in 1997, the Dominus Estate was the first project built in the United States by Swiss architects Herzog + de Meuron.
1 / 9
The exterior walls of the structure are industrial wire cages filled with locally sourced basalt.
The exterior walls of the structure are industrial wire cages filled with locally sourced basalt.
2 / 9
A close-up view of the wire cages, which are called gabions.
A close-up view of the wire cages, which are called gabions.
3 / 9
Upon entering the winery, visitors are met with a minimalist hall and an unobstructed route through the structure.
Upon entering the winery, visitors are met with a minimalist hall and an unobstructed route through the structure.
4 / 9
Herzog + de Meuron used a variety of industrial materials throughout the structure. After ascending the stairwell to the second level, one is met by a Brutalist concrete floors, a wire-mesh ceiling, floor-to ceiling glass used for interior walls, and sunl
Herzog + de Meuron used a variety of industrial materials throughout the structure. After ascending the stairwell to the second level, one is met by a Brutalist concrete floors, a wire-mesh ceiling, floor-to ceiling glass used for interior walls, and sunlight shining through the gabions. A varnished wood handrail contrasts the metals, stone, and glass, adding warmth to the otherwise cool setting.
5 / 9
Sunlight shines through the gabions, peppering the interior with natural ornamentation.
Sunlight shines through the gabions, peppering the interior with natural ornamentation.
6 / 9
Reflective floor-to-ceiling glass is used for the interior walls, allowing the vineyards to constantly be in view.
Reflective floor-to-ceiling glass is used for the interior walls, allowing the vineyards to constantly be in view.
7 / 9
The rear facade of the winery.
The rear facade of the winery.
9 / 9
Completed in 1997, the Dominus Estate was the first project built in the United States by Swiss architects Herzog + de Meuron.
Completed in 1997, the Dominus Estate was the first project built in the United States by Swiss architects Herzog + de Meuron.
Architect 

The structure is atypical for the region because its design draws from Miesian modernism whereas most other Napa Valley wineries favor throwbacks to sensationalized Spanish-style haciendas and French chateaus. Commissioned in 1995 and completed in 1997, the Dominus Winery was the first project built in the United States by Herzog + De Meuron. The structure is barely discernible from the foothills and vineyards, so much so that residents dubbed it the “stealth winery.” And stealthy it is. If you blink when you drive past it, you would never know that you just passed—in my opinion—one of the most interesting buildings in Northern California.

The building’s cool, grey-brown tones and ground-hugging horizontality transform it into an outcrop of the very earth it’s built upon. How the structure ebbs into the surrounding landscape is indicative of winemaker, and Dominus owner, Christian Moueix’s belief that the vineyard is of utmost importance. In designing the structure, the Pritzker Prize winning duo of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron echoes Moueix’s mantra to the letter, ensuring that the winery complements its site—the historic Napanook vineyard—rather than competes with it. The vineyard emotes an overwhelming sense of calm and repose; the winery is oriented parallel with aisles formed by the seemingly endless rows of grapevines, instilling a steady rhythm to the site. Visitors don’t miss a beat when they proceed to—and eventually through—the building.

Once directly in front of the façade, the building’s skin transforms. From the entrance gate it looks like one solid mass; however on close inspection one sees that it’s made up of gabions—wire cages filled with rocks typically used to build embankments. Here, Herzog + de Meuron elevate an industrial building technique to Architecture by using it for the exterior walls of the winery. In addition to creating a unique aesthetic, the stones serve a practical purpose: they passively heat and cool the entire building. The local basalt used in the gabions is less susceptible to climatic changes. Light shines through the rocks, articulating the interior with brightness and shadow. This natural ornamentation changes with the intensity of light, the time of day, and even the seasons.
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016