Napa’s Odette Estate Winery proves red and green make a sustainable pairing

Napa’s Odette Estate Winery proves red and green make a sustainable pairing

Napa’s Odette Estate Winery proves red and green make a sustainable pairing

Organic grapes plus LEED construction makes for a final glass that both tastes good and you can feel good about drinking.

One of the more notable features of the winemaking facility is the 8,500-square-foot living roof, which is equipped with 2,500-square-feet of solar panels that generate 30,000 KW of power every year.

Explore a food and wine project pairing that uses LEED as an expression of business philosophy, and helps align operations with values.

Editor’s Note: Although the Odette Estate Winery was not in direct line of the devastating wildfires this October, the effects of these fires are not yet fully understood. At the time of publication, the winery is inaccessible.

Head a few miles north of the town of Napa and east of the Napa Silverado Trail, you’ll find yourself in the Stags Leap District. One of sixteen designated regions with unique microclimates and terrain in the Napa Valley, Stags Leap enjoys afternoon marine breezes that help dissipate the warmth radiating off the region’s distinct bare rocks and surrounding hillsides. Warm days and cool nights translate to a longer growing season, perfect for late-maturing varietals like Cabernet.


Top: John Conover is the General Manager and owner of Odette Estate Winery. Bottom: Juancarlos Fernandez is a partner at Signum Architecture and the principal in-charge for the Odette Estate Winery project.

Here, you’ll find the Odette Estate Winery nestled against a hilly backdrop. In addition to the 3,500-square-foot lounge, the estate includes a historic 36-acre vineyard, a 5,000-square-foot winery, and 18,000 square feet of caves. The winery, which is owned by partners Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Gordon Getty, and John Conover, and operated by PlumpJack Management Group, places environmental stewardship squarely in the center of its operations.

Wineries, like all industrial facilities, are extremely resource intensive. Huge water and energy demands not only place a big burden on local reserves and grids, but they also equal high utility costs. In California, where complications arising out of booming population and limited resources are further strained by drought and other effects of climate change, sustainability is a central business tenet. At least, that’s the guiding philosophy at Odette.

As a member of the California Certified Organic Farmers organization, Odette prides itself on maintaining a painstaking program of natural cultivation that avoids synthetic fertilizers and insecticides, and uses compost to create rich soil and more pest-resistant grapevines. Conover, who is also Odette’s general manager, believes that the combination of organic grapes and a sustainable winery improves the quality of their product: “This ultimately attracts to us a more discerning and socially conscious customer and staff.”

Officially opened in 2012, the winemaking facility was certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold in December 2016, though the honor of becoming the first LEED-certified winery in Napa Valley goes to its sister property, CADE Estate (PlumpJack’s second property). Conover puts the reasoning behind building to green standards quite simply.

“We consider ourselves stewards of the land as well as role models for sustainability in the wine industry,” he says. “So, for us, philosophically, there was no other choice.”

Having already built one LEED-certified winery, Conover engaged the same team for the Odette project, including the architect, Signum Architecture. His partners (who own three other wineries together) were onboard with the goal of achieving Gold status as well, says Conover, noting that they have always been in “complete alignment with respect to [the] vision.”

But before the team could even think about weaving sustainability strategies into the design, they had to make sure that the building fit the land. Juancarlos Fernandez, partner at Signum Architecture and the principal in-charge for the project, was tasked with designing a production facility that seamlessly blended into the surrounding hills.

The result?

A round footprint that responds to the location, tucked into a natural cove protected by wooded hills on three sides. While it’s not the first winery Fernandez has designed, its one of the most unique—adding an organic element to the property, featuring mixed materials and forms to produce a highly functional facility for the people that operate it on a daily basis.

“There is no hiding the fact that this is a production building, with that said we always considered the human scale of the project and the use of natural light and ventilation,” says Fernandez. “We want the people who use this building to feel a sense of lightness.”

The Estate Lounge offers picturesque views of the property and hosts all of the winery’s tastings and events.

True to its namesake, Odette’s wines aim to evoke elegance and femininity, which is reflected in the architecture. The side view of the facility was inspired by a swan’s wing (a nod to Tchaikovsky’s ballet) and the tall, veil-like screen of curvaceous, perforated aluminum panels allow daylight and air into the space, while sheltering the work pad at the front of the facility. The panels add flexibility and a touch of whimsy, and also inspired the winery’s branding and label design.

Inside, three shipping containers were repurposed as an office, break room and laboratory facilities for the winemaking staff, and the whole building runs off solar power, from the lighting to the winery equipment. Using the mild Mediterranean climate to their advantage, air-conditioning is confined to the shipping container spaces, which helps reduce energy consumption.

The facility’s 8,500-square-foot living roof is outfitted with 2,500-square-feet of solar panels that generate 30,000 KW of power per year. Fernandez notes that the location presented a great opportunity to leverage the green roof to help reduce stormwater runoff and heat flux on the site. Along with the vertical sunscreens, the roof also acts as a camouflaged veil that reduces the exposure of the winery to the nearby road.

In terms of water, the project team also needed to be resourceful. Stags Leap has few water resources, so to be able to harvest water during the winter the estate installed a three-hundred-thousand gallon underground cistern—becoming the first winery to do so—to be used during the dry summer months.

Looking around, you may think that no expense was spared to bring this vision to life, but the team prioritized fiscal responsibility in addition to environmental responsibility. Without sacrificing the architectural concept, the design, construction, and materials selection were deliberately chosen for their overall impact on the site and surroundings as well as the bottom line. (For example, the exterior was primarily made up of metal clad panels.)

Throughout the process though, the objective always stayed the same. “The main consideration [is] the functionality of the facility that helps them produce very high-end wines,” says Fernandez.

So does the space ultimately influence the quality of the wine? Conover would say yes, but perhaps it’s worth pouring a glass to find out.

Top: The facility’s design was intended to create a sense of lightness. Movable panels allow occupants to control the amount of daylight and fresh air coming into the facility, and they evoke the winery’s namesake femininity. Bottom Left: The sweeping, wing-like design was also inspired by the character from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Bottom Right: Inside, shipping containers were repurposed for staff areas and helped contain the amount of space needed for air conditioning.