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08.04.2004

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.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.