MFLA Landscape Design Studio and America’s Most Sustainable Vineyard

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How to produce an excellent wine without weighing too much on the environment? This question was at the heart of the Alexander Valley Silver Oak Winery project, which is in addition to the owners’ other wineries in Napa and Sonoma. Located at the foothills of the Alexander Valley Hills, the 45-hectare Alexander Valley Silver Oak Winery was designed to “frame the vineyards”, enhancing and preserving the site’s natural ecology.
The Munden Fry Associate Landscapers the company has thus carefully created an agricultural landscape adapted to the local daytime climate and which fits perfectly into the architecture designed by the Piechota architecture studio. This close collaboration resulted in a cellar in which the production tool and the tasting rooms fit perfectly and sensitively into the landscape. All while also incorporating an agricultural vocabulary that reinforces the authenticity of the place.
From the start it was clear that the aspiration of the owners was to create a winery that was not only exceptional in terms of wine production, but which, given the urgent problem of climate change and its dire consequences, could also to become one of the most sustainable vineyards in the world. As the architects of the MFLA explain: “The challenge was how to transform an energy-intensive monoculture into a sustainably diverse ecosystem while allowing the vineyard to produce a consistent yield and provide a memorable educational experience for visitors. “

The scope of the landscape project includes the development of the master plan of the vineyard, the development of the vines, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, the location of production and tasting buildings, parking and spaces for visitors and guests and events. It is agriculture itself that has not only guided the design choices, but also serves to guide visitors during the tasting course.
Indeed, MFLA has decided to preserve and improve the ecological aspects of the site, such as the pond of more than 10,000 square meters which serves as the main source of water for the vines. Another body of water runs along the tasting room and provides natural cooling, while beautifully reflecting the architectural elements of the cellar.
The judicious use of native plants accustomed to the local dry climate planted along the site’s drainage channels saves water as well as retains rainwater. These choices make the California-based Alexander Valley Silver Oak Winery proud to be the only “zero water and net energy” winery in the United States. In addition, the landscape architects have carefully selected plants that naturally repel harmful insects from the vines, thus drastically reducing the use of pesticides and promoting biodiversity.
The Silver Oak Winery, which was awarded the LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications, presents a rare combination: MFLA, based on the natural identity of the site, combined with the customer’s environmental objectives, has been able to respond with a design that supports a dynamic and sustainable ecology. At the same time, the Silver Oak Winery meets the needs of a functional and efficient production facility, while providing a welcoming space for connoisseurs of fine wines.

Christiane Bürklein

Landscape architect: Munden Fry Associate Landscapers
Architects: Piechota Architecture
General contractor: Cello & Maudru Landscaping
Lighting designers: EJA Lighting Design
Civil engineer: Summit Engineering
Location: Healdsburg, California, United States
Year: 2018
Image credits: Joe Fletcher, Patrik Argast


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