Design by Michael Dorf
I did not get accepted into the architecture program in college and ended up with a business and psychology double major, so maybe that is I why I love design more than spreadsheets. However, in the business that I have gravitated to since college, the design of the space is integral to the operations--if not a defining element of the business. A live music venue with a food and beverage operation is one thing, but adding a functioning winery as the unique feature has required some fun integration and design of all of the elements.
Like any good venue, it’s important to have a utilitarian use of the space to efficiently weave the customer experience into the business functions.
Working on our second building in Chicago really allowed me to manifest our company vision of bringing wine country into an urban environment. No matter where you are in the facility you should see and feel, if not smell and taste, wine country. Using glass, I want the customers to look into the winery, see the steel fermenting tanks while eating, or be surrounded by French oak barrels in our concert or private event spaces. The natural beauty of a wooden barrel is something we want to feature and the pattern created by racks of barrels can be so cool.
For our third location in Nashville, and now in every location, we deconstructed an oak barrel to use the staves as reclaimed wood and have woven the staves to create bar fronts, wall treatments, and even acoustical ceiling tiles. We keep the wine stains and the bung holes, preserving the authenticity of the material choice. We really love the reusing of old barrels—not only the obvious connection to wine, but the environmentally conscious use of valuable oak to not just become another planter… And the weaving patterns looks so cool.
It worked so well curved along the stairs in NY, that we have integrated the same design into all of our locations. The green glass bottles, the cubical enclosure, all remind of a wine cellar, but the empty green translucent glass and upright bottles clearly indicate this is for show and not functional.
In general, I love adaptive reuse of turn-of-the-century architectural skeletons, which encapsulate our essential look and feel. Large wooden columns and beams, along with red brick are features we have sought as they invoke a cross between old world European sensibilities with California wine country. There is something very warm about large timbers taken from trees that started growing the 1700's and bringing them back to life with sandblasting away 100 years of multiple coats of paint or plaster.
Archways create a mental connection to a cellar or cave—which then leads the mind to connect to wine. In our Chicago location, we have opened up several doorways and put in multiple arches. We were also very lucky to have found some great Polish masons whose craftsmanship is really evident in all these arches. Similarly, in our upstate facility, the curved brick arches above all the windows invoke the same feeling.
We are working again with two friends who are very creative artists. One is Kfir Ziv, an Israeli photographer who earns a living with fashion shoots, but is true artist capturing details and blowing them up large—from falafel to water flowing or splashing. I was very moved with his work and commissioned a mural for NY in 2008. Together we developed a setting of some wine bottles and created a flow of wine and blew the shots up large as murals. The colors, the imagery, and unique angle captures a very modern feel that connects wine and art perfectly. For Chicago, we are taking the same base photos and recomposing them in a way to fit above our main bar in the restaurant. The one twist for Chicago is we are adding a glass window out of the top of the bottle.
Liz Galbraith is a college friend and she and her husband Ephraim Paul have created a very successful lamp, rug, and curtain firm called Galbraith & Paul in Philadelphia. They create a variety of unique patterns for products that are now going into a variety of hospitality locations from Four Season Hotels to Starbucks. They have a beautiful olive green leafy vine pattern we have for our lampshades in the bars as well as a cranberry-colored circle pattern for our lovely velvet curtains. The curtains invoke a feeling of champagne bubbles to me, which are perfect for us.
In Chicago, since we have 30-foot tall curtain wall of glass with the dramatic entrance, I thought I would borrow a little audacious theme from the Wynn Hotel in Vegas with its enlarged flowers, and use the bottle idea for some large hanging chandeliers. I brought the idea of an 8-foot-tall bottle to a bottle maker we found who uses a glass factory in Europe for oversized bottles -- these are not Jerabones or ebiakaneizers but something like 150-gallons (three barrels) worth of wine sized bottles. They don't have a name because the size is too dysfunctional to actually be a real wine bottle! The first bid per bottle was like $30,000 in glass, so I found a cool fiberglass artist who gave us a much better deal. These will be really dramatic looking.
VisionAfter making his first barrel of wine in California with his brother Josh and wine maker David Tate, formerly of Ridge Winery and now at Barnett Vineyards, Michael caught the bug: "For a long time I'd been enjoying wine as a fan - drinking it, taking classes, attending wine dinners - but it was not until I actually started participating in the process of working with the grape, turning it into wine, putting it into a bottle, and watching it develop over time, that I really started to understand wine. And when I would give my friends a bottle of wine with my name on it, most would respond by saying: 'I wanna do that too!' It was this experience that led Michael to conceptualize and start working on the City Winery business plan in 2006.
The core target audience of City Winery - urban wine enthusiasts who desire the experience of making their own wine, but who are not going to leave their comfortable Manhattan lifestyle to decamp to a vineyard - immediately became clear. But Michael wanted to create more than just a custom crush facility. Beyond making wine, Michael also wanted to focus on the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from sharing wine with friends, and to capture the unique social bond that occurs when communities of like-minded people gather over a bottle of quality Cabernet, while dining on a freshly-prepared meal and listening to their favorite artists perform.
In September 2011 City Winery opened the Barrel Room, a 30-seat restaurant within the Winery complex featuring 11 wines by the tap made on premises. The Barrel Room features its own menu, designed by our executive chef Andres Barrera, to complement the wine and much of the food is prepared right in front of you. In addition to sampling our own array of wines produced on premises, guests may order from City Winery's wine list of over 400 selections from most major winemaking regions of the world, recognized by Wine Spectator magazine with a 'Best of Award of Excellence' in 2010. “The Barrel Room” is housed inside the building between the company’s fermentation tank room and the music and private event space. The tap system, which uses a neutral argon gas, allows us to serve wine in the “greenest” manner with no need for bottle, cork, label, or cardboard case. Much of the tap wine requires no added sulfites during "kegging" and because of the inert gas the wine is freshly preserved in stainless steel creating no waste from keg to glass. City Winery opened in Chicago in the late summer of 2012 in a new 32,000 square foot location with approximately the same winery capacity and even expanded tap wine tasting room. Putting a winery into the heart of a city allows for the fresh product to get to wine fans in a unique and efficient manner, pairing perfectly with the world-class entertainment.
That is what City Winery is about: community, creativity and culture. A vibrant, interactive space in the heart of a cosmopolitan city where folks can not only make wine, but also meet friends new and old while indulging their passion for quality food, music, art and life.