Serial Wines Tasting Lounge (Paso Robles, CA)
Despite years of accolades, tons of favorable press, and even some viral content, Paso Robles remains an undiscovered wine destination to many. Perhaps one bold-designed tasting room can raise the respected wine region’s cache.
Enter a Napa Valley vintner who decided to explore a new terroir, and build Serial Wines, a sparkling new and seductive wine experience in the heart of Paso's historic old town.
Serial's wines focus on exploring the 11 unique growing districts of the region (many of its wines will only contain grapes grown in one specific area). And they are good. However, it's the unique design of the lounge where the vino is served that catches our attention most (naturally).
John Anthony Truchard (JaM Cellars, Weather Wines, namesake John Anthony) opened the Serial Wines Tasting Lounge in early 2022, consulting with trusted California Designer Richard Von Saal to reimagine what's possible for the Paso tasting experience.
Von Saal, owner of Vonsaal Design Build, has worked closely with Truchard on a number of projects in the past, so he received near free rein to design a bold vision that translates the burgeoning wine label into an experiential tasting hub.
Having the freedom to design hardly made the project any less difficult.
Von Saal was challenged to bring a brand to life all while elevating contemporary design in the quiet Central Coast community.
“John’s best description of the brand: ‘When a moth sees the light, there’s nothing else that exists, no matter the consequences,'” Von Saal recalls hearing during initial consults. “I decided I wanted to create a space that sets a bar in Paso.”
And to draw thirsty oenophiles like a moth to flame.
The space needed to be bold, but also feel natural to Paso Robles, a town and region that celebrates its low-key authentic vibe that is a 180-degree stylistic turn from the celebrated Napa Valley.
Richard Von Saal
Years in Design: Since 1999
Wine Cellars Designed: ~12
Custom Designed Furniture for Project: 80%
The distinct design begins with the moth that is front and center in the Serial brand.
The goal was to create a seductive lounge that was both mysterious and inviting so that they could serve opulent, yet approachable, wines sourced from the distinct Paso growing regions.
To achieve this, Von Saal custom fabricated 80% of the furnishings to ensure a cohesive feel from the moment guests enter the patio, back through narrow space to the wine cellar.
The large custom-etched metal screens that divide lounge spaces feature a moth wing-like shape that plays well with the logo on the wine bottle labels. The bar and the tables feature intense texture made from reclaimed redwood that was charred during the historic Napa Valley fires of 2017. The art on the walls adds to the mystery, bringing the visuals from each of Serial’s labels to life.
Artful trinkets picked up at local antique shops fill in the decor.
In the wine cellar, Von Saal utilized VintageView’s W Series Wine Rack Frame System to create a subtle, functional display that helps brand continuity. “I wanted the bottles to appear to be floating almost like moths,” he says. “The racks are so minimal. That’s what I really enjoy about the racking systems. They are showing the wines laying on their bellies, floating throughout the room.”
It all adds up to an experience that dares tasters to lounge over a bottle rather than sprint through a tasting of several small sips on their way to another stop.
“I didn’t want the space to feel dark,” Von Saal says. “It’s more about a perseverance of quality, looking into the depths, and not being afraid of where you are going.”
To think, it all started with a drink. Seriously.
One of the first steps Von Saal and his team take when designing a winery tasting room is to start with the most basic element: the actual wine. “I always taste the wines before I create the space,” he says. “It has a lot with how the space moves.”
In Serial’s offerings of Syrah, Malbec, Cab, Tempranillo, and more, he found well-structured wines that feature layers of sophistication. In the design realm, that translated to texture. That texture can be found in the floors (unique staining), the bar and table (he hand-scratched them), the ceiling (original pressed tin), and the metal screens, to name a few places.
SIDE NOTE: While Von Saal struggles to pick his favorite design element as if he’s a parent choosing between two kids, he’s much more decisive when selecting his preferred Serial wine. “The Malbec. That Malbec. Just the composure of the wine. That Malbec struck me, and I fell in love with it all.”
Von Saal’s firm focuses heavily on the use of reclaimed materials. In the case of Serial, that included repurposing burned redwood from the 2017 Napa Valley fires. This presented a unique set of challenges to transform the damaged lumber into something beautiful, functional, and durable.
“I learned a lot about working with burned wood,” he says, specifically noting the lack of sap remaining in the material and how he needed to work around that to create the artisanal pieces.
But it’s all part of the process.
“Every project and every circumstance I need to relate to the space and tell it as a story.”