Terroir is a word often overused in the wine world, yet this concept of a “sense of place” is so essential to what makes a great wine that the term remains firmly rooted in any oenophile’s vocabulary. Sentinel Ridge, a 12-acre Napa vineyard estate, crowned with a glorious four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom house, embodies the very notion of terroir: This is a property designed to be an organic part of the landscape, highlighting the glory of the surrounding mountains, forests, and farmland.
The father-and-son firm of Field Architecture was commissioned by the current owners to design a home that would connect itself with the land — a dramatic site on Howell Mountain — and the result is a series of three barns that stretches across a long, subterranean rock crest. This natural rocky ridge, overlooking the valley 1,700 feet below, gives the estate its name and served as an inspiration for the architects. Field wrote, “[We] saw the nuances and characteristics of the land as guides that that could steer the design ... We decided to anchor the structures directly to the rock and inhabit the inimitable threshold between the cultivated vineyard and the native forest.”
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Sales Associate, REALTOR®
Corcoran Icon Properties
BY CLAIRE LUI
A Singular Sense of
Place in the Napa Valley
“We saw the nuances and characteristics of the land as guides that that could steer the design ... We decided to anchor the structures directly to the rock and inhabit the inimitable threshold between the cultivated vineyard and the native forest.”
The finished house takes its inspiration from the classic gable barn, with three peaked structures, unfolding one after another, with the space between each barn forming outdoor rooms that are equally striking as the spaces inside. Field Architecture worked in close collaboration with interior designer Erin Martin, landscape architects Roche + Roche, and builders Grassi & Associates, to create a modern masterpiece. Completed in 2016, Sentinel Ridge has won awards from AIA California, the Northern California Chapter of the ASLA, and been featured in multiple books and magazines for its architecture, interiors, and landscaping.
The 1.3-acre vineyard matches the house in award accumulation: It’s an ultra-premium vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that has been carefully planted and tended to by the current owner, producing multiple wines with 98-point scores, placing in the highest possible category awarded. Vinous reviewed the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Sentinel Ridge by saying, “Crushed rocks, game, leather, menthol, chocolate, and licorice infuse the 2018 with tremendous character. All of the explosive energy of Howell Mountain comes through in a riveting, super-expressive Cabernet.”
“Crushed rocks, game, leather, menthol, chocolate, and licorice infuse the 2018 with tremendous character. All of the explosive energy of Howell Mountain comes through in a riveting, super-expressive Cabernet.”
The architects, designers, and construction teams used simple materials, matched with an incredible attention to detail and design, to build a house that engages with the surrounding terrain. The three barn structures are clad inside and out with reclaimed Douglas fir, while tan stucco is used on the walls to visually echo the buff soil of the surrounding farmlands. Unexpected features surprise at every turn, whether it’s an indoor-outdoor shower in one of the bathrooms or the dining table built on a railway carriage that glides on curved, narrow-gauge tracks cast into the concrete floor.
Outside, a similar visual theme of revelations unfurls throughout — wander on a trail that winds through the property’s forest and arrive at a meadow of native grass and a fire pit with Adirondack chairs for eight. Or, walk down the stairs next to the house and find yourself at a vista point with the dramatic beauty of Napa below.
Sentinel Ridge is a poem of a property, the lyrical lines of its wood-and-steel colonnade echoing the trellises of the grape vines. Like the spectacular wines made from its grapes, Sentinel Ridge is completely a product of its environment — an exceptional property that could only have been created on this singular patch of land.