Clayton Korte Transforms Fulldraw Vineyard through Multiphase Project

Clayton Korte, Fulldraw Vineyard, Templeton Gap, Paso Robles
Courtesy of Clayton Korte

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

Located in the center of Central Coast wine country in Paso Robles, Calif. is Fulldraw Vineyard, a 100-acre property nestled in the natural maritime setting of the region. Vintners Connor and Rebecca McMahon have owned and operated the winery since 2012 with the goal of creating high quality wine through sustainable methods that are complementary with the surrounding region. 

It is with this goal in mind that they have partnered with Texas-based architecture firm Clayton Korte to design a new campus on the site, which has provided new fermentation and barrel storage space, as well as additional planned space for hospitality and tasting.

“The intention was to design spaces to reflect how the winemaking team wanted to run their operations, with both simplicity and flexibility in mind,” said Brian Korte FAIA, principal at Clayton Korte, in an email to The Registry.

Fulldraw Vineyard is located in the Templeton Gap, which is characterized by intense weather changes, sunlight and wind. With these conditions in mind, the design team knew it was important to create a winery setting that not only is optimal for the creation of wine, but also for the winery visitor experience. 

“The winery had several goals: First, to quietly fit into its natural landscape; second, to provide flexible winemaking space capable of meeting the owner’s goal to make the high caliber wine; and third, to also become a highly regarded destination that felt confident in its surroundings,” Korte said. “The overall goal of the Tasting Room is to act as an instrument for the client, a space that curates the patrons experience of the surrounding context to heighten their experience of the wine.”

The project is split into two phases, and Korte emphasized that the team kept performance, directness and simplicity at the top of mind throughout the design period. Phase one includes a fermentation building and chilled barrel storage center, both of which were completed and have been fully functional since January 2019. 

The 7,288 square-foot fermentation building is steel-framed, featuring resilient exterior materials like burnished concrete masonry bearing walls and fiber cement cladding to withstand the sometimes harsh conditions of the surrounding climate. Because the building is 95 percent unconditioned space, the open-air fermentation space uses cross-ventilation, night cooling and working environments with easy access to natural daylight to create a more organic fermentation process. 

In addition, phase one of the project includes a 2,714 square-foot covered crush pad, administrative and employee spaces and a 2,176 square-foot barrel aging and case goods storage area. The barrel room walls and roofs are enveloped in continuous thermal-insulated panels, with a thermally broken glazing system employed for the windows and doors.

“Functionally, having an uncomplicated flow, from processing farmed fruit, to pressing, to filling, fermenting and aging barrels was really important,” Korte said. “We wanted the winemaking team to focus on their craft and to have the flexibility to experiment, adapt and continue to be artists, so the simple form of the buildings and their relationship to one another was a derivative of keeping things straightforward.”

While the fermentation building is primarily intended for the “behind the scene” steps of winemaking, the team also wanted to ensure it could be used for special visitor experiences by drawing from the natural environment in which it is located.

“Generally speaking, we feel that architecture should accomplish two things: To celebrate the human experience, and to partner with the greater landscape. Quite often, even taking a side-step so the natural environment can be the real ‘star of the show,’” Korte said. “We feel that this is really important in vineyard projects so that visitors are never separated from nature. The winery is primarily experienced by the winemaking team, but does see regular visitors that are led on guided tours or special tastings by hospitality staff. The straightforward configuration of the building and the clean modernist insertion into a beautiful setting creates a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see the working ‘machine’ behind the incredibly crafted wines Connor and Rebecca McMahon and their team continue to refine.”

Phase two of the project, which is currently in for permit review, includes a 3,918 square-foot rectilinear hospitality building which will feature a tasting room, private tasting area, wine library and administrative offices. The team optimized the building’s location on the campus for views of the surrounding hills and vineyards, and the setting allows for the more moderate light coming in from the north to illuminate interior spaces. While the structure is more human-scaled than the winery buildings, a similar exterior material palette relates the buildings to one another, while interior features of the hospitality building set it apart for the visitor experience.

“The tasting room is planned to be a beautiful, highly crafted building with a very approachable and inviting attitude,” Korte said. “Resilient exterior materials that require little maintenance naturally patina with time and reflect the somewhat harsh nature of the site. Intense sunlight, wind and massive diurnal temperature swings call for materials that are robust and naturally tough. The interior, in contrast, is clad in warm oak panels, clear coated steel panels and concrete tile that express the complexities of texture in a reserved material color palette.”

The design team chose to combine the private tasting lounge and wine library into one space within the hospitality building, with the wine library wrapping around the lounge with a refrigerated glass case that provides transparent views to the lounge. According to Korte, the wine case is designed with steel frame racks with perforated metal shelves and dividers, with installed chilling systems that bring cool air in from the top and expel the air from the bottom in a redundant fashion.

“[The refrigerated glass case] both filters views from the entry and envelopes the private lounge, elevating both the prominence of past vintages and the exclusiveness of the private lounge,” Korte said. “Since the library is refrigerated in separate glass volumes, the people inside the private lounge can enjoy their wine at room temperature.”

Because of the varied weather conditions, Korte emphasized that creating a consistent outdoor tasting experience for visitors can be challenging. In order to mitigate this, the team incorporated overhangs, wind screens, operable sliding doors, wind-preventative vegetation and embedded radiant heaters in the design so the vintners can use the terraced outdoor spaces for visitor-facing activities.

“Many design decisions in the tasting room were made to temper the outdoor environment and provide flexible opportunities to be outside,” Korte said. 

In addition to the hospitality building, the second phase of the project also includes the installation of roof-mounted photovoltaic arrays on the fermentation building. The goal is to reduce the dependence of utility-provided energy, and according to Korte, more than half of the winery complex’s buildings will be offset by these photovoltaic arrays.

While all projects tend to bring budget challenges to the design process, the team recommended using a pre-engineered metal building fabricator for phase one to help minimize project costs, accelerate construction and allow for resources to be reallocated to other parts of the project. 

Construction costs have been affected even more unpredictably by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to address this in phase two, the team chose to develop a design that reduces the reliance on structural steel and focuses more heavily on wood components, which according to Korte are a more stable material commodity.

The current projected completion date for the hospitality building and photovoltaic arrays is spring 2024, at which point Fulldraw Vineyard could maintain an annual production capacity of 10,000 cases of wine.

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