The founding of the Opus One winery in California's Napa Valley in 1979 brought together two of the top names in winemaking, one from the Old World wine establishment in Europe and one from the New World winemaking industry in the United States. The design of the winery's new equipment shop reflects a balance too, where function on the one hand is countered by form on the other. Fortunately, the bifold and hydraulic doors specified for the state-of-the-art facility satisfied both desires. They were manufactured by Schweiss Doors of Hector, MN.
The shop was designed by Leong Architects, a firm with offices in both New York and Napa Valley. It works frequently with the area's top wineries on projects large and small.
Opus One grew out of the partnership of Robert Mondavi, a pioneer in the fledgling U.S. winemaking industry, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The Rothschilds are one of Europe's great wine families. Both men were innovators in their own right. Rothschild is credited with inventing Chateau bottling and was recognized for commissioning great artists to illustrate the family vineyard's wine labels. Mondavi introduced temperature-controlled fermentation, French oak barrel aging and high-density viticulture to the U.S. marketplace.
The design of the vineyard shop embraces the partnership of Opus One's founders by taking the concept of the centuries-old courtyard stables of Bordeaux and merging it with modern materials and technology. It has been likened to an introverted jewel box that houses and maintains the most sophisticated vineyard farming equipment available. The Schweiss bifold and hydraulic doors are integral to both the design and function of the new facility. A combination of eight Schweiss hydraulic and bifold doors went into the project. They were installed by Striplin Walker Construction Inc., an El Dorado Hills, CA contracting firm who's installed Schweiss doors on a number of its metal building projects.
“The biggest challenge at Opus One Winery was to develop a design concept that would complement the architecture of the iconic winery, meet all functional requirements to maintain the very sophisticated equipment and conceal the complex operation from public view,” said Wayne Leong of Leong Architects “It was important that a structure of this size not detract from the winery.”
The U-shaped vineyard shop is akin to the 18th century stable located nearby. But instead of horses, it stores the imported over-the-row tractors used to tend more than 200 acres of grapes. Equipment maintenance takes place within the courtyard area, out of public view.
Some of the Schweiss doors installed on the building are clad with perforated stainless steel, just like the material used for the rain screens around the washing/fueling area, clerestory windows and exhaust fans. The clerestory window system above the inner courtyard walls allows the shop to utilize natural light during working hours. The extended eaves and rainscreen function as an effective shading system to minimize heat gain and provide a comfortable work environment.
Other doors were skinned with insulated metal sandwich panels by Kingspan Insulated Panels - North America. A mock-up of a paneled door was put together by Striplin Walker to show the architects and winery people.
"We took the ‘400 V-Wave’ Kingspan panels and turned them so the corrugations were horizontal, not vertical. I took the tongue and groove and cut one of the grooves off and put a splice right at the bending point of the bifold doors so when the door closed you couldn’t even see where the splice came perfectly together. When it came together it created a panel joint. I helped design that,” said Randy Striplin, project manager for Striplin Walker.
“All in all, we have no problems with the Schweiss Doors,” said Striplin. “We think it’s a good product and they back up their products. Cost-wise, I don’t shop them around. If I’m going to sell a door, it’s going to be a Schweiss door.”
Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci reaffirmed that a lot of teamwork and thought went into the development at the winery.
“These doors are really cool. The way they open they add a lot of character to the building, and they’re very functional and add some shade as well. The whole building project was designed by us, our production team, and people who actually work in the buildings. The door design came from Leong Architects; we went with it. We thought the pierced stainless steel corrugated design would really be a nice addition to the building.”
Though the vineyard shop has an elaborate mechanical system, requiring numerous large exhaust fans and intake vents, aesthetics dictated that the vents be kept off the roof. The mechanical ducting was routed instead to the inner courtyard and concealed by the stainless steel Schweiss Bi-fold door/rainscreen.
The winery gave the Schweiss doors a special dramatic treatment at the building's unveiling.
“It was kind of neat at the Opus One opening ceremonies. They had a five-second opening delay and counted down very slowly. It was quite dramatic, with eight doors opening one after another at five-second intervals. It was cool seeing them all pyramiding up,” said Striplin.
“I go out there occasionally and look at the doors. It’s really is an amazing set up,” noted Opus One Vice President of Public Relations Roger Asleson. "To tell you the truth, I do mention the doors to some of our visitors when we do lunches or presentations out there or include it as part of our VIP tours.”