Tasting Notes


In Oregon’s pre-Prohibition days, getting a taste of the vino meant a quick nip on the farm. Later, in the ’60s and ’70s, tasting was still an informal affair, happening in the family homes, garages or barrel rooms of early pinot-growing operations. “Our original tasting room was really just our home,” recalled Maria Ponzi, whose parents established Ponzi Vineyards in 1970. Amid the rising number of visitors to the region, spurred by increasing national interest in the state’s burgeoning wine production, the Sokol Blosser family commissioned architect John Storrs in 1978 to design a separate building to sample their vintages.


photo by Andrea Johnson

The Oregon wine industry has since grown exponentially—the five wineries in 1970 multiplied to 545 by 2012. The tasting experience has come of age with it. “Oregon has a world-class winemaking industry now, and the architecture reflects that,” noted Brett Fogelstrom, the architect behind Ponzi’s new tasting room. These new spaces aren’t merely a bullish indicator of the industry’s future. “It’s a tribute to how far the industry has come,” observed Alison Sokol Blosser, second-generation co-owner of the family business, whose newest tasting room opened in 2013.

Today, this new wave of tasting room design offers a variety of experiences. Whether you want to raise a glass to modern art, sip while watching a busy urban sidewalk, or tip one back while playing bocce in the vineyard, these are the fruit of the vine.

Ponzi Vineyards

photo by Gershon Wolfe

After forty years of decanting wine in the old family residence, the Ponzis decided to upgrade. In 2008, they completed an advanced, gravity-flow production facility, designed by founding vintner Dick Ponzi, on a portion of 42 acres in the Chehalem Mountains. By 2011, it was time to reunite the production with the pour. Maria Ponzi, second-generation president of Ponzi Vineyards, teamed up with husband, architect Brett Fogelstrom, to create the family business’ newest incarnation.

Everywhere you go in
the space, you get a little different
experience of the winery

Fogelstrom took this as an opportunity to “capture the family’s innovation.” To that end, he designed a modern shell that incorporates the steel, glass and concrete of the nearby state-of the-art production facility. Then Ponzi added clusters of seating to host tableside tastings. “I wanted to create a comfortable, relaxed place where people would be able to spend a little more time with us,” Ponzi said. To make it inviting year-round, the couple included a covered terrace, complete with fire pit, and bocce courts nestled closer to the vines. “Everywhere you go in the space, you get a little different experience of the winery,” she said.

photo by Gershon Wolfe

Visitors no longer go to the family home, but memorabilia in the foyer helps to tell the story. “I like that a typewriter and some notebooks show the humble beginnings of the Oregon wine industry,” said Ponzi. “It’s a great sense of pride for us as a family and as part of this community.”

photo by Gershon Wolfe

Saffron Fields Vineyard

photo by Andrea Johnson

It all started with an old dairy barn sitting on a grass seed farm in Yamhill. While others might have seen a run-down plot, Angela Summers and Sanjeev Lahoti, the owners of Saffron Fields Vineyard, saw potential. They bought the farm in 2004, and by 2011, it was time to do something about that barn.

The couple enlisted Architects Richard Shugar and Dannon Canterbury, of 2fORM Architecture, were enlisted to transform it into a new tasting-room facility.

The building itself is a
piece of art, as is the landscape design

“The owners wanted the site and the history of the barn celebrated,” said Shugar. Board by board, the old barn was carefully dismantled, preserving wood for structural and finishing materials. “It was really a way to continue the life of the wood,” Shugar said. Inside, the old wood covers the ceiling, feature walls and tasting bar. Interior designer Jessica Helgerson added velvet couches and hand-blown glass pendants for warmth, while Hoichi Kurisu, designer of the Portland Japanese Gardens, landscaped the grounds.

photo by Andrea Johnson

At the heart of the new building is the “jewel box.” Inspired by an old granary box found in the barn, this small central room is a display space for the owners’ modern art collection. “The building itself is a piece of art, as is the landscape design,” said Shugar. “It also works as a vessel to display and celebrate the art of the owners.”

photo by Andrea Johnson

Winderlea Vineyard

While Bill Sweat and Donna Morris were considering opening their own winery, they did a lot of research. “We visited hundreds of wineries,” Sweat said. “Just to try as many great wines as possible.” Of those, it was the Oregon pinot noir that ultimately called them west from Boston. In 2006, the couple bought an existing vineyard in Dundee and got to work creating Winderlea.

Modern, sustainable design reigns at Winderlea, with concrete floors, and walls of glass that illuminate the interior and give the feeling of being in the vineyard. 

From the start, they wanted a modern and sustainable space. Architects Ernie Munch and Travis Butler helped them achieve that by designing an unadorned tasting room. Concrete floors, exposed ductwork and a Venetian plaster wall add texture. Walls of glass on two sides keep the interior well lit, while retractable aluminum doors open to a balcony cantilevered over the grapes. “We wanted people to feel like they were walking into the vineyard, 365 days a year,” said Morris. “It was important for us to keep that connection between our guests and the vines.”

photo by Andrea Johnson

They made every effort to minimize impact on the land. None of the plants was disturbed during construction, and a roof-mounted photovoltaic array provides solar energy.

When it debuted in 2008, the building’s modernity was a stark departure from the traditional winery architecture that prevailed in the Willamette Valley. Nonetheless, the couple felt comfortable with their contribution. “People were building things meaningful to them and to their traditions,” Morris said. “But there hadn’t been a modern aesthetic yet. So we were happy to do that.”

Belle Fiore vineyards

The project was inspired by the winery owner’s love of
European travel and architecture.

The project was inspired by the winery owner’s love of European travel and architecture. “He asked us to design this building in such a way that it would fit in Tuscany, northern Italy and the Veneto region, where he had traveled extensively,” said Kvapil.

photo by Andrea Johnson

Alison Sokol Blosser, second-generation owner of Sokol Blosser Vineyards, recalls the site’s first tasting room as a kid might.

“It felt like you were in a tree house,” she recalled. And while the beloved original still stands on the 100-acre estate, it could no longer contain the new generation’s business. “We were bursting at the seams,” Sokol Blosser said. She and brother, co-owner Alex Sokol Blosser, paired with Allied Works Architecture to craft a new venue.

The building was conceived as a solid block of wood with the interior spaces carved out.

The new building follows the contours of the land, taking advantage of the site’s expansive views and offering multiple spots for tastings. The design team approached the interior as a sculptor would. “The building was conceived as a solid block of wood with the interior spaces carved out,” said Kyle Lommen, principal at Allied Works. This sculptural quality is sustained through a multitude of angles—strips of hickory set on a diagonal, slanting ceiling lines, even window trim that graduates as it climbs around the glass. “By applying the diagonal to the floor, walls and ceiling, it creates a different kind of experience—a dynamic one,” said Lommen. A skylight cuts into the ceiling, providing natural light and a glimpse of sky and trees. For Sokol Blosser, it’s a pleasant evocation of her memories of the original and the family legacy.

photo by Andrea Johnson

“This building will really stand the test of time,” she said. “My brother and I are so proud of it, and we’ll be proud to hand it off to the next generation.”

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  1. says: Ron Johnson

    Nice Article.
    Keep in Mind that Oregon stretches out all the way to California.
    Southern Oregon is home to some Incredible Tasting Rooms.
    Try Kriselles Cellars Tasting Room http://www.krisellecellars.com/
    In The Applegate Valley, Serra Vineyards built a Wonderful Tasting Room, overlooking some Vineyards and Applegate Valley. http://www.serravineyards.com/
    Southern Oregon grows a large variety of grapes, that benefit from the Climate & Terroir that is unique to the Rogue Valley.