Hill Country Wine Cave
Category: up to $2.5 million in construction cost
Stealthily tucked into the eastern edge of Texas's Hill Country, this private wine cave sits on a secluded river bend just a short walk from other ranch amenities. The project, designed under the pretense of an existing excavated cave on the north face of a limestone hill, nearly disappears into the native landscape. Its unassuming exterior entry count provides just a glimpse of what awaits inside, while boulders and lush vegetation help camouflage the cave mouth.
The cave's dimensional constraints were pre-established by an earlier excavation, challenging the team to design a beautiful wine cellar in a site that was neither watertight nor created for such a purpose. The response is presented in two distinct forms: the insertion of a delicate, human-scaled wooden module and a bulkhead that restrains loose limestone at the cave mouth and provides a predictable surface to wed the insert.
"This beautifully detailed project takes advantage of an excavated cave-like space carved from a hillside." - Jury Comment
Careful manipulation of the solids and voids of the insert ensures the cave can be concealed and revealed to the occupant, enhancing the sought-after qualities of underground construction while avoiding unwanted moisture and darkness. A palpable sense of refuge at the entry is the central tenet of the cellar's design. It offers a sense of subterranean occupation without the overwhelming environmental conditions that might make someone want to leave.
"This beautifully detailed project takes advantage of an excavated cave-like space carved from a hillside. Within this very tight and constrained existing condition, the strength of the design strategy lies in its ability to orchestrate a range of spatial experiences that frame and capitalize on the unique characteristics of this context," noted the jury.
"Within this very tight and constrained existing condition, the strength of the design strategy lies in its ability to orchestrate a range of spatial experiences that frame and capitalize on the unique characteristics of this context." - Jury Comment
Simple domestic materials, all available within 500 miles of the site, were selected for practicality and minimal maintenance. The interiors contain raw and ebonized white oak that mixes with vertical grain Douglas fir to panel the walls and dropped ceilings. Reclaimed cedar comprises the live-edge countertop surfaces at the tasting bar and floating restroom vanity. With more than 80 feet of geology sitting above it, the cellar is surrounded by white oak casework that provides storage for an ever-growing collection of more than 4,000 bottles.
This project was the first collaboration between the team and the client, and trust was an important factor throughout the design and construction process. The cellar's success has set a new standard for other structures the clients are planning on their ranch.