New star on sip scene
One of Oregon’s pioneering wineries has been breaking new ground ever since its founders, Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser, began planting their first vines in 1971.
A short recap of Sokol Blosser Winery’s infrastructure developments over the years sets the stage for its most recent and arguably most notable accomplishment.
Construction of the original winery building was completed in 1977, just in time for their first vintage. Three years later, their estate vineyard acreage was expanded to 72 acres.
In 1978, the original tasting room, designed by renowned Portland architect John Storrs, was completed. It was the first tasting room building specifically designed for that purpose in the Willamette Valley.
In 1983, Sokol Blosser received formal recognition from the U.S. Soil and Water Conservation Service, owing to Susan’s work with experimental cover crops designed to control erosion on hillside vineyards.
They became one of the first to join LIVE, the international Low Input Viticulture and Enology program administered by Oregon State University, in 1997. The year also marked the 20th anniversary of the winery’s first vintage.
In 1998, replanting got underway to eliminate or avoid phylloxera. The entire estate was ultimately replanted; it only returned to full production in 2011.
Pursuing its emphasis on ecological sensitivity and sustainability, the winery developed an innovative underground barrel cellar in 2002. It was the first winery facility to ever meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s demanding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification criteria.
In September 2005, Sokol Blosser’s entire 72-acre estate vineyard was granted USDA organic certification. Two years later, the family installed a 25 kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel system, which meets at least one third of their annual energy requirements.
The family’s first land acquisition in three decades also occurred in 2007. The following spring, 20 more acres of Dundee Hills pinot noir went in.
At the beginning of 2008, siblings Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser became the winery’s co-presidents, taking over day-to-day management from their mother, Susan.
The next year, the entire Sokol Blosser wine portfolio was certified under the Oregon Wind Board’s Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine program, designed to recognize sustainable vineyard and winery practices.
Now the second-generation has put the punctuation point on the paragraph with completion of a structural statement destined to become a destination in itself.
Ground was broken on Sept. 19, 2012, on a new tasting room building whose design had been in the planning stages for a couple of years.
Alex and Alison selected Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture as their architect. Founded in Portland in 1994, Cloepfil’s firm has gained worldwide recognition over the past decade for innovative designs in public, institutional, commercial and residential buildings.
Earlier projects earning acclaim for Allied include the Seattle Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis. A recently awarded commission for the National Music Centre of Canada stands as the most significant yet.
Alex emphasized that Yamhill Wine Country has become an international destination and the Sokol Blossers wanted nothing short of “a building that sets new standards in service, hospitality and design.”
“Just as our first tasting room was designed by an outstanding architect of the time,” he said, “we sought out someone with a reputation for leading the way. Brad has given us precisely that and we are delighted.”
Though set on a tree-studded hillside half a mile back from Highway 99W, the building exudes a prominent presence that cannot be missed even from a distance. Alison calls it “a work of art inside and out.”
According to Alison, “Personalized experiences inspired the creation of our eight different tasting areas, each with its own unique design characteristics. Visitors can choose from tailored wine flights or food and wine pairings. We are even equipped to put on private events.”
Experiencing those eight areas firsthand is to become enthralled by a myriad of intersecting angles all masterfully crafted in diagonal patterns. New discoveries of space, light and texture excite the visual senses.
Each surface is rendered in tongue-and-groove wood covering the floors, walls and ceilings. The walls are tight knot cedar, as are the decks, whose weather treatment has darkened the surface in contrast to the lighter color of the walls.
The floors are hickory, a somewhat unusual choice. Cloepfil associate Nathan Hamilton said, “It complements the cedar and provides a beautiful flooring with great durability.”
By comparison, the library flooring is native Douglas fir, a marked contrast in texture and tone to the hickory just on the other side of its glass double-doors.
Ash enrobed in a purple-black stain provided the material for a dramatic service bar that seems to float on top of the much lighter hickory flooring.
The bar differs from the wall and floor treatments in that it is not formed in chevron patterns but rather is a tight horizontal configuration of pieces that takes on the appearance of a gracefully imposing and solid object.
Not to be outdone by all the attention to interior design detail and juxtaposition, the tasting room’s low profile exterior makes its own long, low statement. Nestled serenely into its hilltop site, the structure’s sweeping linear shapes and dramatic angles serve to further enhance the illusion that this is a much larger building than its stated 5,000 square feet.
And its impression of energetically elegant interior spaces is augmented by merely looking out the generous glass windows. Vines surround the building on all sides framed on the south by fertile farmland and distant hills.
Describing it as the communal wine experience, she and her brother are looking to a not-far-off future in which the Valley will fulfill its promise as a mecca for lovers of wine from around the globe.
Alex recounted the Sokol Blosser family journey which began with the land and development of the vineyards, continued through the building of a winery and a then trend-setting tasting room and the commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability, leading up to the present day.
“Our new tasting room,” he said. “It’s a statement of the next era in Oregon wines. For us it’s the final piece in the puzzle.”
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 503-687-1227.