A Cloud With A Silver Lining
Mark Pupo -- Interior Design, 6/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
When wineries don't have a long, august history, they often conjure the impression of one by building a faux château. Stratus Vineyards, in the burgeoning wine region of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, did something different. The six-year-old company's home is as strikingly contemporary as the herbicide-free wines produced there are complex in flavor. This is also the first winery in the world to earn LEED Silver certification.
Stratus is the baby of Teknion's president and CEO, David Feldberg. Envisioning a boutique winery as design-conscious and eco-friendly as the office furniture manufactured by his company, Feldberg hired Burdifilek to complete the operation's public spaces. Before creative partner Diego Burdi and managing partner Paul Filek even began, they visited the local competition and decided that Stratus's advantage was, in fact, its newness. Õe;
Entry to the 4,350-square-foot public spaces, which make up about a fifth of the complex, is through monumental 12-foot-tall oak doors. Behind them are a retail area and two separate rooms used both for tasting seminars and for demonstrations by visiting chefs. Most of the illumination comes from the sun, complementing the winery's other LEED-specific efforts: the use of recycled and renewable materials, geothermal heating and cooling from 24 wells dug 225 feet deep, a washroom with waterless urinals, extensive composting, and an employee bike-to-work program.
Burdifilek experimented with texture and drew inspiration for colors from the rich espresso-brown soil and the gray outcroppings surrounding the site. Some walls are paneled in brushed, sandblasted rift-cut oak; others are covered in a luminous compound of cement and plaster mixed with quartz and dove-gray pigment. In the middle of the expanse of low-maintenance terrazzo flooring, the partners used elegant 12-foot-tall cabinetry of oak and steel to build an intimate room within a room. On a functional level, the shelves hold design books, stemware, and row upon row of the winery's bottles.
The pair of adjoining tasting rooms are a study in subtle contrasts. The smaller one resembles a dining hall in a gentlemen's club, with walls paneled in squares of oiled end-grain Texas mesquite. (That's one of the few materials not locally sourced.) The drum shades of two pendant fixtures hang low over a communal table topped in whitewashed oak. At one end of the room stands a lacquered credenza in a shade of merlot.
The larger tasting room is just as well appointed, but you'd be forgiven for not noticing. This space is all about the views: One set of windows faces out, to the vineyards; another set faces in, to the barrel room. If visitors spared a moment to look up at the ceiling, they'd see an intricate jigsaw puzzle: panels of parallel-strand engineered lumber arranged in a layered wave.
"Stratus is a winery without baggage," Burdi explains. "It has a high-end product. The visitor concentrates on the experience of the wine, not on the usual winery paraphernalia of crested baseball caps and key chains."