California Wine Country Gets a New Look

In with the new.

The architecture of California wine country has become synonymous with the “modern farmhouse” style popularized by Bay Area architect Howard Backen. But in recent years, a new generation of architects have arrived on the scene, drawing on their diverse backgrounds and their clients’ creative visions to break the farmhouse mould. Now, you’re as likely to see a stained-glass wine-tasting pavilion as a repurposed barn with vaulted ceilings and stone fireplaces.

A standout example is the new Caymus-Suisun Winery, located just outside of Napa and designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson the architectural firm behind Apple’s stores. With its cantilevered roof, clean lines, and palm-treed landscaping, the low-slung glass pavilion looks more like a high-end resort than a winery. Inside, a truncated pyramidical oculus floods the minimalist space in warm California light, while an elegant concrete bar practically doubles as sculpture. The 30-foot-wide sliding doors reveal an expansive terrace with leather swing chairs and sweeping views of the vines and orchards.


Caymus-Suisun Winery. Photo by Matthew Millman.

Caymus-Suisun Winery, Palm Alley. Photo by Matthew Millman.


In 2020, Sonoma’s Aperture Cellars debuted a production facility and hospitality building inspired by the aperture of a camera, with a series of hexagonal buildings featuring protruding rooflines and darkened metal façades. Winemaker Jesse Katz wanted to pay tribute to his father, the world-renowned photographer Andy Katz, who stoked his passion for travel and art. The father-son duo tapped architect Juancarlos Fernandez to bring their unique vision to life. The compound never overwhelms its environment, but rather complements the mountain scenery and the surrounding sea of vines.



With environmentalism a top priority in both architecture and winemaking, many of wine country’s new spaces are equally committed to style and sustainability. In 2019, Sonoma’s Bouchaine Vineyards unveiled a sleek, curving visitor centre made of repurposed redwood from old wine tanks and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and “fins” that naturally heat and cool the interior. Designed with no straight or parallel lines, the winery appears to open its arms to the rolling hills and tidy vines. It’s no wonder Bouchaine has been the setting of multiple musical recitals as part of the Festival Napa Valley.

At Sonoma’s Donum Estate, the Icelandic Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann recently unveiled a wine-tasting pavilion as outdoor sculpture. Covered in 832 colourful glass tiles, the glimmering conical canopy is meant to draw visitors’ attention to the shifting light, the rustling of the grass, and other natural phenomena as they taste the estate’s elegant pinot noirs and chardonnays. Elsewhere on the property are 50 works of original art by masters such as Louise Bourgeois and El Anatsui.

Bouchain tasting room. Photo by Michael Hospelt.


Art is just as much of a focus at Bella Oaks, where proprietor Suzanne Deal Booth—a leading arts preservationist and collector who trained under the legendary French American art collector Dominique de Menil—is breathing new life into the historic Napa Valley estate. Several works from her personal collection have been installed on the winery’s grounds, including a mirrored cube pavilion by Yayoi Kusama and an abstract cherry-red statue by Joel Shapiro. Now, Deal Booth is partnering with celebrated Thai architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who trained under Tadao Ando, to build a winery and hospitality site on the former grounds of an adjacent winery. No designs have been released yet, nor has construction broken ground, but Booth is already sure of one thing: both art and wine tours will be offered—a must for the modern connoisseur.