March 14, 2019

MH Architects and Vonsaal Design Lock Down a Futuristic Look at The Prisoner Winery

The Prisoner Wine Company is likely as well-known for its labels—unmistakable Goya paintings of downcast, shackled inmates—as for the red and white blends in its bottles. So, when the owners took over a 40,000-square-foot winery just south of Napa Valley’s St. Helena, they needed to keep things dark. Which is where MH Architects’ Matt Hollis and Richard Von Saal of Napa-based Vonsaal Design Build came in.

In the Makery, custom seating gathers across Flor carpet tiles and polished concrete floors. Photography by Matt Morris for TPWC.

“I’d be lying,” says Von Saal, “if a retro-futuristic prison didn’t come to mind.” He established an industrial palette of aluminum and patinated mirrored steel, with rough edges courtesy of extensive use of 200-year-old Mennonite beams. Correction facility vibes include racks that keep the wine in chains and cage seating for tasters throughout multiple lounges, outdoor spaces, and private rooms. And to let a little light in—and build some community—a social space called The Makery features a vaulted ceiling with a massive new skylight, eight feet wide and 57 feet long, offering a natural spotlight for rotating collaborations with local potters, chefs, and other artisans.

Interested in winery design? Check out 2018 Best of Year Winner Sacromonte, 2017 Best of Year Winner E.&J. Gallo Winery, and a trio of beautiful wineries.

The team replaced an outdated water fountain at the entrance with a black canopy of steel and tension fabric. Photography by Matt Morris for TPWC.

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