As the weather in the acclaimed Los Carneros wine region, which straddles Sonoma and Napa counties, fluctuated for two days, the view of a canopy of 832 laminated glass panels became a kaleidoscopic journey for the senses and emotions, taking us through the surroundings led. The 24 colors transformed as sunlight poured in, overcast skies called comfort and the drizzle of rain left its delicate residue on the earthy ground at the center of the cone-shaped canopy that opens to the sky.
Vertical Panorama Pavilion (2022), inspired by the history of circular calendars and designed by Berlin office Studio Other Spaces, founded by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson and acclaimed architect Sebastian Behmann, was celebrated with a series of intimate opening events on Sunday and Monday and became the new focal point of the 200th… acres of Carneros Estate vineyards owned by The Donum Estate.
The glazed glass panels of the canopy, centered on a north-facing oculus, show the annual averages of the Donum Estate’s four meteorological parameters: insolation, wind intensity, temperature and humidity. Both functional and decorative, it screens a specially designed hospitality area where visitors are encouraged to make their own connections between the wine and the arts and to recognize ours deeply rooted connection to the environment.
“As you’ll see, we’re sunken in,” said Eliasson, describing how the pavilion was integrated into the landscape. “Our body is (at) the level of the roots. We root, so to speak. When we’re standing or sitting, we’re sort of just above the ground where the nourishment…that’s happening underground is actually what’s in our bodies. And as you all know, there are many of our bodies that aren’t necessarily human, but they are material and organic and like the water… This is probably as organic as it gets, because this is actually the place that’s already here .”
“You see artworks dotted around the side … that take up the narrative of the tasting and the winemaking and the crafts and somehow add (the pavilion) a different perspective. It also gives us a space where you can actually do the tasting and actually perform,” Behmann said. “The design criteria are actually based on ‘What is wine tasting?’ and how to approach that and turn it into a design, into something you can physically experience. And so we took everything that is on the site and used all the narratives that are already there on the site, like the walking, the plants, the sky, all of that is actually portrayed in this pavilion.”
As I contemplated the intricacies of the Pavilion, I contemplated the complexity of The Donum Estate’s Anderson Valley Estate Pinot Noir, its velvety light ruby tone, its playful raspberry nose, its blend of delicate berries, spice and earthiness dancing intensely and elegantly with its slight acidity and balancing tannins before ending on an earthy note to connect me to the pristine terroir.
The landscape brings together a palette of some 50 site-specific sculptures and artworks by global contemporary masters, a white cube shelter inhabited by the imposing and amusing Louise Bourgeois Crouching Spider, an avant-garde production facility, and many airy but cozy areas where you can learn all about the award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vintages and varietals grown on the estate. In a market awash with so-called immersive and experiential environments, this is a refreshing reminder of what exists when values, best practices, aesthetics and passion triumph over irrelevant brand and consumer trends.
Along with an expansive view of San Pablo Bay, we glimpse the 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower skyscraper, reminding us that we are simultaneously close and yet distant from downtown San Francisco, underscoring Eliasson and Behmann’s commitment to spatial experimentation . The couple worked tirelessly during the pandemic, using virtual reality technology which has become a “standard tool” in their practice, and collaborating via Zoom with Mei and Allan Warburg while quarantined in China for three years. The unveiling was a homecoming for the couple, who acquired the vineyard and began their oenoesthetic passion project in 2011. One of the largest private collections of sculpture in the world, and which welcomes visitors by appointment, the Donum Collection has expanded to include works by artists from 18 countries on six continents.
Ai Weiwei, whose Circle of Animals / Zodiac Signs (2011) is a highlight of the sculpture garden, also creating artwork for the wine labels. The diverse collection, united by scale, includes that of Keith Haring King and queen (1987), originally installed in the grounds of the pavilion and now perched on a hilltop where it commands our attention. Corten steel’s rust-colored patina is a departure for Haring, known for its bright colors. The intertwined figures are borrowed from chess pieces and remind us to look for the unexpected.
“We believe that taking beautiful art, putting it in a beautiful landscape and enjoying a great wine together is a much greater experience than enjoying it alone,” said Allan Warburg happily, embraced by Vertical Panorama Pavilion.
I traversed the site multiple times over two days on foot and from the jump seat of a golf cart, absorbing countless views and perspectives that challenged the conventions of space and time. Navigating the serpentine, biodynamic landscape of organic vineyards interspersed with monumental sculptures while sipping on a curated selection of vintages was an indulgent, otherworldly delight. Each new twist led to discovery, capturing alternative angles of sculpture, inhaling the surprising scent of old tomato leaves, observing the habits of donkeys, chickens and sheep, and drifting in a polyphony of chronotypes.
“There’s all this coming together of travel, there’s the general stretching out. That architecture represents the first phase, another important role, and I’d like to think that through art and through general politics in winemaking, they’ve become more and more organic,” Eliasson said in a casual one-on-one lunchtime interview.
The global approach to arts, culture and business enhances the feeling of being transported away from the tourist-driven vibe of downtown Napa. The Warburgs eschew art consultants and curators, relying on an organic approach to collecting art that springs from their personal networks.
In the United States, wine consumption is too often just a barter agreement with a brand. The experience is detached from culture, community and exploration of the grape, the vines, the process, the terroir, the weather, the winemaker and every individual and living being involved in production and distribution. Similarly, art viewing is too often a lazy attempt to decipher what we are see. There is much more to consider: the haptics, the vibrations, the sounds, how we feel, how we interact with the object and its dynamic environment, how we transcend time and space through the viewing process. Appreciating art is more than visiting a gallery or museum, just as enjoying wine is more than a five-step process of color, swirl, smell, taste and taste. The marriage of wine tasting and art appreciation can revitalize our social awareness, expand experience and connect art with nature.
The Donum Estate allows us to expand our spatial awareness, or our ability to become aware of our relationship and interaction with the environment around us. Learn how to plan your visit, whether you’re fascinated by wine or art, hopefully you’ll find the connection.
“Donum is all about community, and while we remain committed to producing the best Pinot Noir in California, we also bring together people with shared passions for fine wine, cultural arts, design and sustainability,” said Angelica de Vere -Mabray, Chief Executive Officer of The Donum Estate.