In 1873 an English sea captain named William Peterson bought 49 acres of land in the northern Napa Valley and planted the grape vines he hoped would secure his living as a winemaker. In 1885 he constructed a 5000 sq. foot winery of solid stone on the first floor and wood frame on the second. The building was designed for gravity- feed winemaking. Grapes arrived at the back of the building via horse drawn cart were hoisted up to and through a large, second floor portal via block and tackle where they would be crushed. Juice from the crush was piped to fermentation facilities on the first floor.
Shortly after, Phylloxera destroyed Peterson’s vineyards and by 1894 he was ready to go home. The property was sold to San Francisco building contractor, Robert Bergfeld, who restored the vineyards and chiseled away Petersons name above the winery entrance and replaced it with his own. Bergfeld produced wine there for 12 years. After a brief ownership by a third vintner, the operation was shuttered by Prohibition. After Repeal, it reopened as the Napa Valley Winery Cooperative, the precursor to today’s custom crush concept. Grape growers who bought into the Coop brought their grapes to the winery where they would be fermented, made into wine and sold to a brand with proceeds going back to the members. By the time our clients purchased the property in 2003, time and the elements had taken a toll and the entire winery building had been completely encapsulated in a derelict warehouse structure.
NEW LIFE + PURPOSE
Undaunted, the clients sought to bring the historic treasure back to life. The original plan was to use the Peterson-Bergfeld building to house winery offices but the architects proposed a different use. Its location, across a central courtyard from a planned, new, state-of-the-art winery, presented the opportunity to establish the landmark as the centerpiece of the winemaking campus and anchor the new facility in the heritage of the property. The revised plan would expose it, enhance its visual prominence and transform it into an exquisitely integrated event venue and barrel storage facility.
The resulting building pulls all of the elements of the developing winery campus together and grounds them in the sites history. It also opens up the space and its history for enjoyment by more people while assuring that the building continues as an active part of the Napa Valley winemaking tradition for another century or more. The upstairs room, where the fruit came into the historic winery, is now a soaring and open event venue with adjacent restroom. Walls of tongue and groove Douglas fir are warm and evocative. Downstairs, barrel storage is pushed to opposite edges of the room and an oversized harvest table is nestled in the middle to accommodate group experiences.
PRESERVATION, RESTORATION + ALTERATION
The building’s state of disrepair dictated that only a few, key historic elements could be salvaged and preserved. Then it was stripped back to the bones and rebuilt with modern materials and fittings that evoke the original ambiance while setting the stage for contemporary winery life.
The floor of the first floor was dirt and there was a well in one corner. The traditional means of securing an old well by explosion was not an option. The solution was a fill of rubble covered with a 5-6 foot concrete cap. The footings upon which the original wood columns rested were big boulders. They were carefully excavated and replaced (embedded in) concrete. A new concrete floor incorporates radiant cooling for barrel storage. The original stonework on the lower level was retained and repointed with a gravel mixture from the nearby Napa River. Existing, decorative vents along the bottom of the building were kept. Missing vents were replaced with replications and then all were sealed with glass to boost energy efficiency. Side window portals are original.
The original, upstairs floor, which consisted of two layers of wood laid perpendicular to each other, was preserved. The floor slopes to a center drain which was used to move wastewater out. The floor and drain system were protected during construction and carefully cleaned to retain historic character.
The large portal where grapes were originally hauled up and into the second floor by block and tackle is now an expansive viewing window with sliding glass window, rail or solid pocketing barn door options. When open, western light and a panoramic view of the vineyards stretching across the valley to the mountains fill the room. The new, custom milled tongue and groove wood siding on the interior walls is sized based on dimensions taken from the original, exterior clapboard siding which was salvaged and measured for that purpose. Mechanical systems are hidden in the soffits.
COMPROMISE + DANGER + REFLECTION
The architects’ intent was to leave new materials looking new so as to showcase what was preserved. In the end, the client’s desire to have a building that looked like it belonged to the era during which it was built prevailed and the new exterior wood on the upper level was aged.
When you unravel a building of this size that has sat over time and you want to save whatever you can, deconstruction is a long and dangerous process. OSHA regulations are strict. Lifting and moving century old stone, trusses and 35-40 foot beams, with no clear idea if their degenerated condition will withstand the jarring and flopping in the process is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking.
The new, state-of-the art winery is now completed across the courtyard from the re-imagined landmark. When the sun is just right, guests enjoying the Peterson-Bergfeld’s soaring second floor may glance out the window to a surprising, life-sized, reflection of the historic building’s striking stone exterior from the structural glass curtain that encases the new facility.