Pinot Noir lovers don't need much motivation to visit Russian River Valley, home to some of California's finest examples of the wine, but Williams Selyem is giving them more. Staffers at the iconic winery tell Wine Spectator that it is opening the doors to a new tasting center and production facility Aug. 30, at its estate vineyard.
For more than two decades the winery conducted its operations out of two small barns along Westside Road, where founders Burt Williams and Ed Selyem gained a cult following for their single-vineyard Pinots. The duo sold the winery in 1998 to John Dyson, a former agriculture secretary of New York. Dyson continued to use the space, but it didn't have the amenities to entertain customers. Bob Cabral, longtime executive winemaker, says that visitors had to stand over a sink while tasting at the old winery.
The new $14.8 million center was built to offer Williams Selyem's customers a better tasting experience. The building is modern and spacious, with oversize redwood doors and large windows with views of the surrounding estate vineyard. Visitors can taste a selection of wines, including some that will only be available through the tasting room.
One catch—only Williams Selyem tasting-list members can visit. "We wanted to build a place for our customers," says Cabral. Tastings are by appointment only and are free. They include tours of the facility and use of several picnic areas.
The center is located at the Williams Selyem estate vineyard, previously called Litton Estate (the winery will drop the name starting with the 2010 vintage). It features a tasting area, a barrel room, a bottling line and laboratory, and administrative offices.
Designed to evoke an enormous wine barrel, the 33,000-square-foot facility was built with sustainability in mind, using many recycled materials, including stones from the surrounding property and redwood salvaged from old fermentation tanks. Solar panels provide electricity and heat the building's water. One room features a "living roof" planted with indigenous grasses, which helps insulate the building and doubles as a patio for guests.
While the new facility has ample storage space and can accommodate up to 20,000 cases of wine, the winery will continue to crush and ferment its wines at the old facility up the road. Only the blending and bottling will take place at the new center. According to Cabral, none of the winemaking techniques will change and the brand will remain at 15,000 cases for the foreseeable future.
In the video below, Cabral discusses some of the green approaches Williams Selyem takes in the vineyard.
John Kmiecik — Chicago, IL — August 10, 2010 12:26pm ET
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