Miranda Winery
The Sam Miranda Wines cellar door represents the first of a two-stage project. The brief was for a modern facility that improves the winery’s viability by creating a landmark destination for tourists and gourmands to the region’s growing viticultural industry. This facility was to be constructed away from the existing busy wine-making operations (production and grape-crushing plant).

The project is sited to maximise its exposure from the passing traffic on the ‘Snow Road’ to Bright and cause minimal impact on the King River floodplain. The facility compliments the rural surroundings and vineyards and creates a place for the community to meet.

Sited behind earth berms, the bold tower stands as an icon on the King River flood plain. The tower provides light and ventilation into the ‘subterranean’ wine tasting area and invokes nostalgia of the old tobacco drying towers in the region. There will be three towers at the completion of the second stage. When considered as part of the total scheme, one is reminded of the tower forms of San Gimignano. This is “Kelly Country” and the ribbon window that wraps around three sides of the tower is reminiscent of Nolan’s abstracted Ned Kelly.

With the wines made and stored elsewhere, this is simply a tasting space, somewhere to sample the wines and perhaps stay for lunch at one of the tables set up on the terrace. There is not a lot of topography here, so the feeling of being underground is created through artifice. A large earth berm hides the tasting room from the roadway and gives the impression that the attached tower rises straight off the ground. The berm is then severed by a long concrete block wall that acts as gateway to the car park and guides visitors to the entrance. The opening in the wall takes visitors into a covered walkway and from there either into the building or out to the terrace. Once inside, the idea of the cellar is evoked by a solid wall to the east, with a few small barrels standing between short block walls. Similar walls are used on the north, either side of an open fire and holding window seats that connect to the entrance walkway. On the west, more block walls separate pairs of doors that lead out to the terrace. To the south is the tasting area, with the main bar stepping out into the centre of the room to take pride of place between the four concrete columns that hold up the tower above.

The idea, then, is to step up to the bar, pick up a glass of wine, hold it up to the light, savour its colour and see how well it clings to the glass. This is made possible by two rows of glazing – one around the base of the tower, just above the roofline, and another, angled row much higher up. The top of the tower is also glazed, enabling a view to the sky above. From the tasting area, the sun can be seen easily enough through the low windows. But the full effect of the higher, angled glazing, and of the curve that billows up inside the tower, can only be seen from the bar and requires a tilt of the head almost as dizzying as the wines themselves.

From the open exposed landscape, the sequence of spaces culminates at the bar to taste the product. One approaches the bar to select from the extensive range of wines on display. Hold up your glass – you are invited to look up. Inside the sculptural space of the 14 metre high tower, a curved wall on one side helps to deflect light from the skylight roof down. In summer, the courtyard is a protected sunny space. The semi-enclosed external entry provides a protected outdoor area in winter.

The budget of approximately $1 million relative to the 300m² building brief was challenging. The raw materiality of the building envelope such as face block, exposed concrete, plywood sheet and native timber weatherboards were used cost-effectively by working to the inherent modularity of each material. This rawness was juxtaposed to the refined finishes used for feature interiors of the bar and restrooms.

The building’s primary spaces and its courtyard are orientated north. The main area opens on 2-sides. Operable windows high in the tower take advantage of the ‘Venturi effect’. 15,000L tanks supplies the facility. Wastewater is recycled in an underground concrete tank allowing anaerobic and aerobic bacteria to process the waste. The slabs and walls provide thermal mass. The ceiling and the lightweight walls have bulk insulation.

Sam Miranda Wines has become a local landmark that provides a meeting place for locals and a pleasant stop-over for tourists. The cellar door’s success has allowed the viability of the project’s final stage, a café/restaurant.

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