Napa Valley: Frank Gehry breaks ground on first winery

  • Monday 30 July 2007

Celebrated architect Frank Gehry broke ground last week on a controversial new project in Napa Valley – his first ever winery.

The new Hall Winery, due to open in 2010, will have two major buildings designed by the eminent architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the extraordinary Marques de Riscal centre, among dozens of other projects worldwide.

This will be the first Gehry-designed winery in the world. The Riscal centre in Rioja does not include a winery, and another he designed in Ontario, Canada, was never constructed.

He called the Hall site on the Napa Valley floor ‘an extraordinary piece of land.’

The new buildings will include a visitors center made of glass with an undulating roof topped by a trellis of wood or concrete.

The plans were originally opposed by the local community, but Hall Winery owners Kathryn and Craig Hall won final approval. At the groundbreaking ceremony Gehry said, ‘Democracy’s complicated. But it’s worth it. I worry about being a good neighbor, but being a good neighbor, to me, means not copying what’s around you.’

The winery’s visitor center and overall site plan have been designed by Gehry Partners of Los Angeles while winemaking facilities are by local architect John Lail.

‘There is often a disconnect between the architects’ models and reality,’ said the septuagenarian Gehry. ‘When we displayed models of Bilbao, people there held a candlelight vigil protesting it. Now, they’re so happy they are inviting me to live there for the rest of my life.’

Real estate investor Craig Hall and Kathryn Hall, a former ambassador to Austria under president Bill Clinton, bought an old winery on the main highway in the Napa Valley in 2003. As part of the new design they are restoring an 1885 building on the property. They also own a winery in Rutherford, Hall Rutherford, and more than 500 acres of Bordeaux varietals in the Napa Valley.

Kathryn Hall, who called Gehry ‘the greatest architect in the world,’ added, ‘We knew we had him hooked when he saw the setting.’

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