Shipping Crates, Historic Cottages, Tiny Houses Transformed into Winery Hotels

From California to Spain, wineries are turning all kinds of surprising things into stylish guest rooms, and decorating them with salvaged materials from barrel cellars and farms

Shipping Crates, Historic Cottages, Tiny Houses Transformed into Winery Hotels
With its setting among the vines, Geneseo Inn at Cass Winery makes it hard to feel boxed in. (11th Street Studio / Courtesy of Cass Winery)
Aug 3, 2020

”Recycle, repurpose, relax” is the new mantra in wine tourism: You can spend the night in an enormous wine barrel or emptied-out tank, and now wineries from Paso Robles, Calif., to Jerez, Spain, have transformed industrial-size shipping crates and historic cottages into suites for tired taster-travelers. They're among the growing number of sustainability-conscious wineries giving their old buildings and tools a second look.

Paso Robles’ Cass Winery owners Steve Cass and Ted Plemons dreamed of hosting guests on the property to share their wines. In June, Cass opened a hotel with a design as unexpected as the sparkling Viognier it produces. The suites are built from repurposed (and very heavy) ingredients: shipping containers. “We wanted an overnight experience that people would remember and talk about,” Cass told Unfiltered via email; he dubbed it Geneseo Inn.

Winery hotel from recycled materials
A place to chill: The new Geneseo Inn at Cass Winery is constructed from shipping containers like those used to transport grapes and wine; most of these are 8' by 20'. (11th Street Studio / Courtesy of Cass Winery)

The crates, which had carried freight from China, ticked a few boxes for Cass: The distinctive, eco-friendly design comprises 20 containers fashioned into eight accommodations plus an office area. It’s also “compatible with the vineyard,” as such containers (usually occupied by grapes or wine) are a common sight at the winery. Architect Walter Scott Perry and his firm Ecotech constructed the compound, which sits in Cass' Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, with each suite given a rock moniker like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Easy Rider." According to Perry, the creative repurposing goes beyond the containers: Recovered wood, metal barn siding and recycled tiles were also incorporated into Geneseo Inn’s design. “The project has already become a model for practical yet unique and innovative sustainable design for lodging,” he said.

Winery hotel from recycled materials
But the crates at Geneseo Inn can hold humans, quite comfortably. (11th Street Studio / Courtesy of Cass Winery)

Up in Washington, Alexandria Nicole Vineyards is inviting guests to sleep among the vines as well, on the Columbia River. Between bottling Merlot, rosé and even hand sanitizer, the winery found the time to construct four "tiny houses" for visitors. The little lodges in the Destiny Ridge vineyards fit literally, figuratively and snugly into the winery’s sustainability efforts. “We initially started with glamorous camping tents,” said co-owner Ali Boyle, “but once we saw what a hit ‘glamping’ was, we thought it would be nice to be able to expand the season by converting them to more permanent structures.”

Winery hotel from recycled materials
Alexandria Nicole's "Gravity Merlot" tiny house is constructed and decorated entirely with repurposed materials, most from winemaking. (Mattisen Blayne / Courtesy of Alexandria Nicole Vineyards)

These, too, are partly constructed from reclaimed materials. A decorative wall in the “Jet Black Syrah” house is made from repurposed barrel staves, and a bar area was once a stainless-steel fermentation tank. Another of the houses is sided with reclaimed wood, roofed with repurposed tin and lit by a chandelier made of mason jars. “All of the materials used had at one time been used for either the vinicultural, winemaking or tasting room experience,” Boyle said of that house. The winery’s pint-size chalets haven't gone unnoticed: Two of them were featured on an episode of HGTV series Tiny House, Big Living. A fifth house is in the works.

Winery hotel from recycled materials
A peek inside the "Jet Black Syrah" house (Mattisen Blayne / Courtesy of Alexandria Nicole Vineyards)

But it isn’t just the New World that’s been opening these vinous inns (vinns?). Spanish Sherry giant González Byass also has new digs for guests in what it dubs a “Sherry hotel.” After several years of planning, the González Byass team unveiled Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe last month, located on the grounds of the 185-year-old winery, in the center of the city of Jerez. According to Beatriz Vergara, González Byass’ corporate director of wine tourism, guests "will be able to stay and soak up even more of Sherry culture and Andalusian gastronomy within the winery itself.”

Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe, named for the beloved fino brand, also breathes new life into old wine structures: The hotel’s 27 rooms have been converted from four cottages that once housed workers and their families. “The connection with wine production is therefore very strong,” Vergara said. Another connection: The architect and three interior designers are González family members.

Winery hotel from recycled materials
The pool and bar at Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe overlook the dome of the Jerez Cathedral. (González Byass)

And of course, as Geneseo Inn and Alexandria Nicole’s tiny houses have shown, a new winery hotel wouldn’t be complete without whimsical suite names. Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe organizes theirs in the traditional style, with designations like Oloroso, Palo Cortado and Fino.


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