The Unconventional New Home of The Prisoner Wine Company – COOL HUNTING®
Napa Valley was blanketed in smoke over the weekend The Prisoner Wine Society opened its tasting room to the public. The devastating blaze had just begun its trail of destruction 150 miles to the north, and the region’s generally cool ocean air looked and felt more like something out of a dystopian thriller. It made approaching the new house like a prisoner’s fortress downright eerie.
Located near Highway 29 in St. Helena, the property previously housed wines from the Franciscan estate. But when its parent company Constellation Brands bought The Prisoner in 2016, they showed the door to Franciscan and completely transformed the traditional winery into something better suited to their new acquisition – a brand born from a single bottle whose iconic label features a haunting engraving of Francisco Goya of a chained man, illuminated from above.
An easy-drinking, Zinfandel-rich blend, The Prisoner was the flagship wine of Orin Swift Cellars, founded in 1998 by Dave Phinney. A decade later, The Prisoner Wine Company was formed when Phinney sold the popular label (along with Saldo, another red blend) to Huneeus Winegrowerswho eventually sold it to Constellation.
It was an unconventional journey from bottle to brand for The Prisoner, and its third owner also wanted to give it an unconventional home. So they hired architect Matt Hollis and designer Richard Von Saal who together reinvented the space with what they called a retro-futuristic feel, to not only showcase the 10+ wines currently in The Prisoner’s portfolio, but also to create a space that celebrates local makers.
The renovated property is home to The Prisoner’s Tasting Lounge, as well as The Makery, an adjacent event space with modular metal furniture, four booths to accommodate a rotating selection of local artisans and vendors, and an open kitchen where the in-house chef Brett Young makes wine. – friendly agreements.
“The opening of The Prisoner Wine Company’s Tasting Lounge and The Makery reinvents the typical wine tasting experience by offering loyal and future fans a place to immerse themselves in the brand in a new way,” said Brigid Harris, property manager of The Prisoner. “We hope that all of our visitors will come and experience the appeal of The Prisoner Wine Company.”
While the winery offers a new way to experience The Prisoner wines, it also introduces a new way to experience Napa. To say the building doesn’t give off the typical whitewashed “wine country” vibes would be an understatement. The dark windows, metal roof, and towering entrance to the sprawling slate-gray structure seem more suited to a post-apocalyptic princess or a high-class criminal who’s robbed a few cellars.
Inside, nearly all surfaces are black or gray, accented with reclaimed metal and wood. Prison references — like chains and handcuffs — are incorporated into the decor, and the only prominent pop of color throughout the space is blood red. That said, the interior is anything but dark. Inspired by The Prisoner’s label composition, Hollis installed a nearly 60-foot skylight when he vaulted the ceiling of The Makery (formerly the Franciscan Wine Library). The courtyard features rattan chairs, a living wall, and gender-neutral bathrooms.
In stark contrast to the dark surfaces and cool metals that adorn The Prisoner Wine Company, the staff is friendly, the food is approachable, and the space manages to feel comfortable and inviting, even with the prison-themed accessories. penitentiary and actual size. installation of the skeleton. Like the bottle that started it all, it’s a little disturbing at first glance, but once you get there, you’re hooked.
Images by Matt Morris for The Prisoner Wine Company