COR Cellars

Location: Lyle, WA
Size: 5,200 Square Feet
Completion Date: 2016
Project Team: Jon Gentry AIA, Aimée O’Carroll ARB

Project Narrative

“The courtyard is the heart of the building, protected by the new wings of the winery that form a U to the west and anchored on the east by the existing winery farm shed. This wrapping of the buildings creates a wind block for the day-to-day operations and a calm, protected center for visitors as they enter the tasting room.”

COR Cellars is located on Old Highway 8 just outside of Lyle, WA in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. Within a designated National Scenic Area, the site offers stunning views to the east and west of the carved mountainsides characteristic of the gorge and to the south across the river to Mount Hood. The project is a 5,200-square-foot expansion to an existing winery founded in 2004.

The Columbia River pulls steady westerly winds up through the gorge which become a significant site condition to address while working outside much of the year. Responding to both the landscape and the owner’s requirements led to the use of a courtyard (the heart at the center) as a central organizing system that protects workers and visitors alike from the sometimes harsh conditions of the natural environment. With large overhangs on the internal sides, the courtyard becomes a memorable and inviting way for visitors to arrive to the winery and be welcomed into the new tasting room. The building berms into the hillside along the north while opening up to the landscape and grand views of Mount Hood at the south. To complete the courtyard on the east end, the design retained the location of the existing metal farm shed and repurposed this space into the new COR Cellars bottling facility.

Visitors enter the courtyard between the old shed and the new structure at the same location as the previous entry, maintaining a familiar connection with the past. The walls of the barrel storage spaces that flank the courtyard are kept solid, drawing visitors into the tasting room. Large glass bi-fold doors between the tasting room and courtyard create a direct connection between interior and exterior space. Key views and circulation routes are set up east/west through the building giving visitors glimpses of the vineyards beyond. Skylights are located above the tasting room bar dropping light on the main hub of activity. The large masonry built fireplace marks the center of the living room and offers an inviting space for gathering year round. A rooftop terrace offers a unique perspective over the Columbia River and out to Mount Hood beyond.

The need for significant square footage added to the existing winery called for a clear concept with a repetitive structural module that surround the courtyard. A simple yet refined exterior material palette with straightforward detailing and dark earth tones allows the building to sit comfortably in the site. 

Inside, the simple material palette continues with lighter tones. White-washed walls and the clear coated hemlock ceilings reflect the natural light that enters the space offering a welcoming atmosphere. The southwest corner of the tasting room is arranged to feel like a living room, encouraging visitors to relax, meet new and old friends, and enjoy the beautiful surrounding landscape.


Contractor: Chris Poland, Windwood Homes
Structural Engineer: J Welch Engineering
Photographer: Kevin Scott / Sullivan & Sullivan