Sokol Blosser's Chic New Tasting Room

Architect Brad Cloepfil crafts a new Willamette Valley aesthetic

By Sam Coggeshall July 1, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

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Alex and Alison Sokol Blosser faced a problem: popularity. The tasting room at the winery their parents founded in the 1970s dawn of Oregon’s vino history couldn’t handle 21st-century demands. 

“People would drive up, see how slammed we were, and drive away,” says Alex, 39, who took over from the family company as co-owner with his sister in 2008. Some who stayed wanted a traditional tasting; others wanted to buy a bottle and settle in. Serious wine geeks hoped to talk shop with overburdened staff. 

The Sokol Blossers turned to architect Brad Cloepfil. His firm, Allied Works, has become Portland architecture’s most recognizable name on the strength of high-profile urban commissions like Wieden & Kennedy’s headquarters, New York’s 2 Columbus Circle, and Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum. But the Oregon native has long theorized about designs for a bucolic northwestern landscape. The Sokol Blossers gave Cloepfil’s theories an outlet.

“We wanted to make it look like it just grew up out of the earth,” Alison says. 

Allied Works’ new 5,000- square-foot tasting room opens this month amid profound changes in wine country. The rootsy craft pioneered by the Sokol Blossers and others has become a $2 billion annual industry. Its physical spaces haven’t always kept up. 

Wineries usually default to faux-Mediterranean architecture—Tuscany via Epcot Center. Cloepfil’s creation fights that tendency with a modernist maze. “It’s this crazy labyrinth,” the architect says, comparing the cedar-clad interior spaces to a carved wood box. “It’s the valley’s first piece of contemporary architecture that really responds to where it is—to landscape, earth, and light.” 

“Brad is an amazing artist,” Alison Sokol Blosser says. “He describes it as his little jewel box. There are a lot of intricacies, a lot of details.”

Cedar The tasting room is wrapped in cedar pieces cut to different sizes, set at varying depths. “We want to play up the natural light that hits the building,” says Allied Works’ Kyle Lommen. The rough-hewn exterior will contrast with finished, cabinet-like cedar inside. 

Board-formed concrete Retaining walls support the site’s overall structure and provide texture and variation along the perimeter. “The whole premise is a series of terraces,” Cloepfil says. “Garden terraces, parking terraces, and then the winery.” 

Wood-framed windows Massive windows reveal vineyards sloping away in both directions. “A series of rooms, corridors, and hallways connect to the landscape,” Cloepfil says. 

The roof Various skylights bring in natural light, while the design allows for the eventual installation of a green roof. “It reinforces the earthen quality,” Cloepfil says. 

Sustainability Six solar panels, low-power lighting, and ample natural light allow the building to aim for net-zero energy usage. 

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