When nature dominates – California

Flowers’ new guest experience breathes new life into a cherished local landmark to become a destination resort-style estate dedicated to the celebration of wine, food, and the natural landscape. Located minutes from downtown Healdsburg, in the heart of Russian River Valley, Healdsburg, California.Originally built as a winery in the mid-70s, the facilities on this 15.5 acre estate had deteriorated and become outdated. The collaborative challenge for Walker Warner Architects, Maca Huneeus and Design Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, was how to evolve the existing collection of facilities and landscape whist preserving the natural legacy, ensuring that the venue could meet the expectations of today and become a destination in its own right.

The approach by Walker Warner Architects was deceptively simple, “Let nature dominate and use architecture to frame the experience. Ultimately, it’s about the experience of this place,” Brooks Walker, principal at Walker Warner Architects.

Set within a redwood grove, the existing buildings were largely disconnected from their rich landscape. The strategy was to find ways to reconnect visitors to the landscape while reimagining what was a series of simple industrial buildings. New pathways lead visitors from the parking area to the updated visitor center. Previously a warehouse, the new hospitality house provides guests with an orientation to the site and introduces the Flowers’ story. As with the other existing on-site structures, the hospitality house has been stained a shadowy black—inspired by the deep shade of the surrounding redwood grove—to help the buildings recede into the site and allow the landscape to become the focus.

Guests can experience a variety of intimate gatherings areas to savor Flowers’ Sonoma Coast wines both inside as well as outside. Upon entering, guests are led to the second floor which includes the sunroom, the dining room and living areas as well as more private spaces for VIP guests. The gardens, framed by existing refurbished rammed-earth walls, bring the experience into sharper focus, unfolding as a series of quiet eddies intended for gathering, tasting wine, and celebrating nature. The site occupies the boundary between the gridded vineyard and agricultural fields of the Russian River and is situated amongst the oak-grassland foothills leading up to the coastal redwood forests that surround Flowers’ estate vineyards on the extreme Sonoma Coast. The terraced gardens feature plant communities indicative of each surrounding ecological typology. New board-formed concrete walls were added to the landscape as needed, serving as a counterpoint and augmenting the series of exposed archaeologies. Together, landscape and architecture combine to provide a quiet refuge, a place to celebrate community and friends through the experience of wine. The landscape design by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects amplifies distinct California landscape ecologies creating a deeply rooted sense of place and a narrative consistent with Flowers’ authentic wine-making.

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