Boxwood Designs: Going Wine

Photo: Col Solare

Reinventing the winery, after more than two decades in the design business.

When Joe Chauncey founded Boxwood Designs in 1989, the vision he had for his Portland venture was simple and specific: a design firm that delivered desirable aesthetics and sustainability in equal measure. Eventually, Chauncey crossed the Columbia to take part in Seattle’s blooming sustainable architecture market.

August Cellars; Photo: Boxwood Designs

Thee days, Boxwood Designs is doing their part to reinvent a place we all know and love: the winery. As Chauncey explained, many organic commonalities already existed between his company and the wine industry – making their subsequent union all the more lucrative.

“The whole idea of wineries was started for us because it seemed like the kinds of clients that build wineries have their feet in pragmatics and art at the same time,” Chauncey said. “Every single winery is a unique opportunity so it gave us the ability to practice in a single area but all of the buildings are diverse and different from each other since they all make wine differently.”

Function is key for wineries, while appearance and ecological standpoints should follow closely behind, he said.

“I think in some cases, wineries don’t know if they want to be sustainable but they like fresh air and natural lighting,” said Jeremy Reding, Boxwood principal and frequent wine event volunteer for several of their clients. “Then we can come in and create those things to turn it into a very sustainable answer.”

For example, Reding said, if Boxwood builds barrel rooms that have a certain amount of insulation, including earth and man-made walls, the winery won’t lose as much wine to evaporation.

“We’ve been educating each other, learning more about wine and sustainability the more we research with each project,” Reding said.

Striving for practicality, Boxwood’s innovative and visually stimulating designs range from underground, caved wine storage facilities seen in Col Solare on Red Mountain to the label production and branding work they do for Wines of Substance.

“We don’t necessarily excel at one thing, we try to sell the process,” Reding said. “That can be applied to the architecture and the branding of the winery and the wine.”

Photo: Col Solare

Jamie Waters, winemaker and general manager of Waters Winery in Walla Walla and co-proprietor of Wines of Substance, said he constructed his winery’s idea with Boxwood based off of the final product of Col Solare.

“We wanted something that looked sharp,” Brown said. “We wanted a high end barn with a sleek functional look as well. The actual drawing of the layout wasn’t exactly reinventing the wheel but it was working with someone who has experience in certified sustainable practices.”

After seeing Boxwood’s design of the Carlton Winemaker Studio around the corner, Tom Schaad and his brother, Jim, of August Cellars in Newberg, Oregon, decided to go after the firm with a similar idea in mind.

The family winery’s main goal was to accomplish their desired production levels without having a detrimental effect on the environment surrounding them, considering their location rests on a severely sloping hillside.

“How do you be a steward of what you have without having a negative impact?” Schaad said. “Boxwood was good about stewardship and conservation of the resources that we were facing.”

Sitting round table with Reding in the firm’s sunny downtown office, Chauncey reflected on a sustainable architecture summit he attended nearly three decades ago. “Beauty is the ferment for human creativity,” he quoted. “That’s something we believe and hope our clients believe too.”

Once Boxwood had finished building Col Solare, Chauncey recalled that the winemaker, Marcus Notaro, stated that the winery encouraged him to be better at what he did.

“He wants to live up to what [the winery] is doing,” Chauncey said, “because it’s beautiful from an aesthetic point of view but also because it’s sustainable.”