Technical Imagery Studios

It turns out one of the best places to sip a top cabernet sauvignon is a brick-lined, 3,200-square-foot event center two stories underground.

Welcome to the perpetual 60° F splendor of the Roth Winery Cave, part of the Roth Estate Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., about 60 miles north of San Francisco.

This cave is a far cry from roughhewn subterranean passages of old. In fact, it may take your breath away with its design artistry and fully realized aesthetic.

The Gothic, cathedral-like arches, beams, and ledges evoke classic European styling. About the only modern concessions to its time-honored motif are a large all-glass entrance, discreetly concealed mechanicals, and advanced LED lighting.

“It’s really a building that happens to be shaped like a long tube without windows,” says Roth Winery Cave architect Chuck Peterson, explaining the entire 8,700-square-foot U-shaped space. “A California cave is subject to all the code requirements of any structure, though with 20 feet of earth covering it.”

Wine caves are nothing new to the state’s $56.7 billion wine industry. There are over 150 wine caves in northern California alone. But few rival the Roth Winery Cave in one respect: the warmth and beauty of the cave’s all-brick interior.

“Most winery caves have a stucco finish over layers of wire and shotcrete,” explains Peterson. “We wanted to give the skin a unique, turn-of-the-century cave look. However, full-bed brick was quickly ruled out because of weight and structural complexity.”

Enter thin brick.

Thin brick allowed the architect the flexibility to work with compound curves without compromising the aesthetic. Peterson says the material proved ideal for at least seven reasons:

  1. Weight. At one-sixth the weight of full brick, it’s an ideal veneer, adhering quickly and reliably to most substrates.
  2. Texture. “We went with wire-cut brick. Not super-smooth, a bit of authentic roughness so it doesn’t seem like tile,” says Peterson. “It gives us the emotional feeling we were after.”
  3. Mortar. For Peterson, laying in traditional Type S mortar was key to the aesthetic. “When you mortar it up, you get all the benefits of full-sized brick without the weight. The mortar color was a classical light gray.”
  4. Color. The owner selected the thin-brick color from a surprisingly expansive palette. A color called Salt House was chosen. Salt House is based on a San Francisco renovation project that stripped away plaster walls to reveal an appealing mottled white brick surface.
  5. Flexibility. It’s limitless, says Peterson. “You can create any shape with thin brick. It’s a skin not a structure. There’s nothing you can’t do underground with thin brick.”
  6. Affordability. “I’ve used thin brick as a veneer before, just not in a winery cave,” says Peterson. “I knew it’s an affordable option. Installation is quite easy for a mason.”
  7. Sustainability. Just one-sixth the clay and fuel are used to make thin brick. Salt House bricks use clay recycled from nearby construction sites, making them eligible for LEED points.

Not many U.S. wineries offer tastings in a cave. But it’s good to know the authentic warmth, beauty, and affordability of thin brick can enhance any space, above or below the surface.

Learn more about how to enhance your next project with thin brick beauty and affordability.

Owner Roth Estates Winery
Architect Chuck Peterson
Thin Brick McNear Brick & Block
Cave Driller Nordby Wine Caves
Contractor Nordby Construction Co.