The Suisun Valley’s quiet pastoral beauty and agrarian character is reminiscent of Napa Valley in the 1970s, before large, prominent wineries transformed Napa into a major tourist destination. In this context, noted winemaker Chuck Wagner and his son Charlie expanded their highly regarded winery, Caymus, with a new winery in the less-developed Suisun Valley. The new winery, set among other family-owned vineyards and orchards, lies in a 30 acre dry-farmed vineyard on the valley floor, and is framed by the Howell mountains to the west — the range that separates the Napa Valley from the Suisun Valley. The microclimate of the valley is warmer than the rest of Wine Country and consistently receives steady afternoon winds that funnel through the northern San Francisco Bay.
The grape of choice for this warmer climate is Durif, which is the varietal harvested to produce Petite Syrah. The flagship label for the winery is dubbed Caymus-Suisun Gran Durif Suisun Valley. Already having been grown and bottled for the past several years, it will play a focal part in the winemaking and tasting experience at the winery.
For Caymus and Bohlin Cywinksi Jackson, the Suisun Valley offered a blank canvas and an opportunity to establish a contemporary and forward-looking wine culture while celebrating the valley’s landscape and agrarian roots.
The winery consists of a series of small-scale buildings, much like the historic pole-barns and assorted sheds that previously occupied the landscape. These buildings are arranged on the site to create unique, human-scaled landscapes, and also allow each of the buildings to take advantage of views of the vineyards in the valley and the mountains to west.
Set at the southern edge of the winery, the new Caymus-Suisun tasting room is a low-slung glass pavilion, raised above the valley floor on a plinth that allows visitors to see above the line of the surrounding vineyards, while also enjoying afternoon breezes and views of the mountains beyond. The pavilion produces a dramatic juxtaposition of mass between four heavy concrete core walls in contrast to a sleek, seemingly weightless, cantilevered roof. While these two elements give the structure an undeniable presence, the floor-to-ceiling glass façade serves to dematerialize the architecture, creating a seamless flow and connection to the landscape.
Expansive sliding doors on each side of the building, up to 30-ft wide on the north and south edges of the central tasting space, further open the building to the landscape and mediterranean climate. An oversized skylight above the central space is detailed as a pyramidal opening in the ceiling plane, sculpturally framing the sky without any visible structural barriers. The west tasting room features a 30-ft cantilevered roof element, simultaneously shading the space from the afternoon sun and orienting to the ridgeline view. At the east end, a private tasting room is anchored by a long farm table and can be partitioned off by massive wood pocket doors for more intimate gatherings.
The Welcome Center and retail building embraces common, modest materials such as concrete block and engineered timber. The humble material palette is elevated through thoughtful detailing and creates a simple structure that will receive visitors and offer wine for sale.
The design allows both the wine and the landscape in which it is created to shine. Watch this flythrough video to preview it for yourself.