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Architecture and Wine: Both Too Expensive

I'm a huge fan of modern architecture, even at its most extravagant, perhaps best embodied by the warped sheet metal excesses of architect Frank Gehry. I think the stuff is gorgeous, inspiring, and way, way too expensive.

It's incredible to me how much people end up paying for these buildings, no matter how beautiful they are. It's sort of like paying a few hundred dollars for a bottle of wine. Yes you might enjoy it, but did you enjoy it ten times more than that $30 bottle? I'd bet not.

In an unfortunate collision of these two worlds, it has recently been announced that Kathryn Hall vineyards has commissioned none other than the esteemed Mr. Gehry to develop a new visitors center on their winemaking property, just off of Highway 29 in Napa, former site of Edgewood Vineyards.

So in a few years we will have a gorgeous, nay, stunning, piece of work in The Valley, an ode to the landscape wrought in stucco, glass, and wood (no rolling steel sheets on this one). We will also have lots more traffic on the already beleaguered Highway 29, and Kathryn will have to support the overhead of the new facility, which means, of course, more expensive wine.

If the American wine industry needs to know why wine sales don't approach that of France or elsewhere in Europe they need look no further than this new building. Like most museums with their unspoken "look-but-don't-touch-this-painting-is-more-valuable-than-your-life" atmospheres, efforts like this new facility may create aesthetic enjoyment but ultimately perpetuate the upper-class elitism that keeps wine prices high and the masses flocking to Trader Joes for swill in a bottle.

I'll be there on opening day to bask in the modernist glory of the new Kathryn Hall winery, but you won't find me buying many bottles of wine, even if they are signed by Frank Gehry.

Comments (4)

enoch choi wrote:
08.04.04 at 2:43 PM

i think it'll be wonderful to have a building by Gehry there, albeit i probably won't try Hall wine because of it...

HugeJ wrote:
08.05.04 at 3:34 PM

What do you mean we don't need more $100+ bottles of wine? The world cries out for them like a babe yearning for mother's milk! By what other standard can we measure ourselves as indiscriminate consumers of a luxury good?

Sarcasm aside, nicely said.


howard brunswick wrote:
12.28.04 at 3:46 PM

frank gehry is not a modern architect. let's get that straight. i suggest if you are going to make an analogy you should at least use the proper nomenclature. however, as much as i might agree with you about gehry's work, you should not underestimate the value of a well designed building or a great bottle of wine. they are just so few and far between that most do not get to experience one. and yes, they are worth it.

Alder wrote:
12.28.04 at 4:45 PM

Perhaps I should have made the disclaimer that I'm not an academic, and like most people, I couldn't tell you the stylistic differences between rococco and art deco if my life depended on it. Forgive me if I use "modern" incorrectly and lump people like Gehry and Koolhaas into a category that has personal significance rather than actual significance.

I do not underestimate the value of a well designed building nor a great bottle of wine, I merely object to the sometimes astronomical prices associated with them. Gehry is famous for going tens of millions of dollars over budget in the pursuit of aesthetics which, no matter how much I might enjoy, begs the question of their worth. Could we not have equally as impressive buildings and equally impressive wines for less cost?

See you at the opening !!

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