Western Living Magazine
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Maverick winemaker Charles Smith and famed architect (and WL Designer of the Year judge) Tom Kundig got together to create a tasting room like no other.
Washington State wineries have always had one big problem: while the wine they produce is terrific, the place where they do it, Walla Walla and environs, is both a long way from anywhere (5+ hours from Seattle) and nowhere near as picturesque as the Okanagan or Napa. Or Sonoma. Or the Willamette Valley.Some wineries have set up their winemaking facilities (they still grow the grapes in Walla Walla) in Woodinville, just north of Seattle, but following the pack has never really been in Charles Smith’s playbook.Maybe more than anyone, the crazy-haired winemaker has elevated the profile of Washington wine as something that rightfully belongs alongside the great wine regions of the world. He first hit was the (too) cleverly named K Syrah, and since that time he’s expanded into well-made mass market wines like the always amazing Kung Fu Girl riesling. So when he decided to build a Seattle tasting room (he has two in Walla Walla) and winemaking facility he put his own stamp on it. Firstly, he located it in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Charlestown—a fair ways south of downtown, with some cool architecture, some dicey strip malls and a baseball toss away from the active runways of Boeing Field.More importantly he hired Tom Kundig of Seattle’s Olson Kundig to design the building. Tom has been one of our Designer of the Year judges for a few years, but even if he wasn’t such a good friend of the magazine we’d be compelled to sing his praise from the top of Grouse Mountain. Simply put, he is unquestionably one of the greatest architects working in the world today (look at this Gulf Island wonder and tell us we’re wrong) and we have good company in our opinion (Wallpaper* named him one 150 people who have most influenced, inspired and improved the way we live, work and travel over the last 15 years, the American Institute of Architects dump awards on him with serious regularity).The collaboration has produced a wine room look no other. You sip while planes—beautifully framed by Kundig’s monumental glass facade—taxi and take off, in a spare, but warm, room that looks like it might be just as happy holding a concert for Modest Mouse as serving some amazing wines (a lot of which aren’t available anywhere else).
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