ST. HELENA, Calif. -- Vine Cliff Winery recently opened its new tasting room in St. Helena. Vine Cliff Cellars opens daily from 10am to 5pm. This new addition to Vine Cliff is located just south of Dean & De Luca at the corner of St. Helena Highway and Inglewood Avenue. The winery also celebrated the opening with the release of its 2009 Private Stock Cabernet Sauvignon and its 2012 Proprietress Reserve Chardonnay.

The Sweeney Family, owners of Vine Cliff, commissioned noted Napa Valley architect Howard J. Backen whose firm has been involved in the design of a number of wineries including Harlan Estate and The Napa Valley Reserve, to design the new Tasting Room in 2012. The design has incorporated classic touches to a 'green' building. Working with Nell Sweeney, Proprietress and Rob Sweeney, General Manager, Backen designed the 4,000 square foot building with specifications that met the Sweeney Family's dedication to energy conservation and green practices.

The Sweeneys also requested the incorporation of features inspired by their travels to European wine regions. 'The architecture was inspired from trips that we took to the great estates in Burgundy and Bordeaux. There was one particular building in Burgundy that we loved. Classic old world plaster, inside and out. We wanted a very traditional winery feel. We have 17 inch thick walls that are emphasized in the architecture but also provide superior insulation,' explained Nell Sweeney. Concrete stone plaster and wood are the materials throughout, with concrete counters and a fireplace by Concrete Works.

The front gates at the main entryway to the Tasting Room were hand forged and resemble similar gates in the underground cellars in Burgundy. The steel windows and skylight were also designed with a very traditional European winery approach. The old world feel of a wine shop was considered especially with the wine cabinetry, using stained elderberry wood. Windows and doors by Sierra windows were finished with a natural patina in tone with the entry gates.

The conservation elements of the building include the solar energy system that provides 60 per cent of the estimated electricity. In the short time that the Room has been open, the savings from the system with Enphase Energy has shown a small contribution to offsetting the carbon footprint, which 'is part of our Vine Cliff mission', Rob Sweeney emphasized.

The landscaping surrounding the building and in the inner courtyard, was designed to be drought resistant by landscape architect Steve Arms, and was installed by Rodney Rose.

The seating areas, with comfortable lounge chairs and sofas in beige tones, are designed for intimate conversation. There are two smaller rooms to support the main room for more formal tastings; these are equipped for AV presentations as well.

The outdoor area with a separate entryway from the street, runs along one side of the building, creating a clever use of a combination of indoor/outdoor space as needed. A food preparation kitchen permits Vine Cliff staff to prepare artisanal cheese and charcuterie plates to go with the wine selections, and to provide for larger catering requirements.

SOURCE: Vine Cliff Winery

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