September 6, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Masters  of Vine Art

Teaming your favorite vintage with your preferred artist is simple thanks to vineyards that highlight art as much as wine


Earlier this year, Château La Coste, a vineyard in Provence, France, unveiled a permanent installation by Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei. The sinuous work, titled Ruyi Path, uses salvaged cobbles to create a pathway that responds to the ancient routes and dry-stone walls on the property. The wine estate also inaugurated its new Photography Pavilion, designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with 10 seascapes by Japanese master Hiroshi Sugimoto.

In the south of France, Château La Coste’s impressive artworks and architecture include the <i>Ruyi Path</i> (2017) installation by Ai Weiwei. Photograph: Stéphane Aboudaram/WE ARE CONTENT(S). Banner image: Barry Flanagan’s <i>Hospitality</i>. Photograph: The Estate of Barry Flanagan, 2017The idea of savoring the best in visual art while enjoying some of the finest wine is growing in popularity, and the château is one of an increasing number of vineyards that are as much about great art as they are about great wine.

Set 10 miles north of Aix-en-Provence, Château La Coste boasts an impressive
list of architectural structures designed by Pritzker Prize winners such as Jean Nouvel (the winery), Tadao Ando (the art center), and Frank Gehry (the music pavilion), along with works from the who’s who of contemporary art (Tracey Emin, Richard Serra, and Sean Scully, to name a few).

A Tadao Ando-designed art center can also be found at Château La Coste. Photograph: Tadao Ando Art Centre © Château La Coste/Andrew Pattman 2015The project is the brainchild of Irish businessman Paddy McKillen, who bought the estate in 2002 and set about creating a 500-acre organic winery—including more than 300 acres of vines—that would also be an art destination in its own right.

Château La Coste’s Photography Pavilion, designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Photograph: Stéphane Aboudaram/WE ARE CONTENT(S)This art and architecture experience has been open to the public since 2011. “Some people come to taste wine and discover art, others come to visit the art and discover wine. Many visit simply because they have heard it is a beautiful destination,” notes Daniel Kennedy, manager of the art and architecture project at Château La Coste. “However, one thing is for certain: there is a magic about the natural environment here that feeds into the wine.”

Permanent, in-situ works are here forever; they are impossible to displace, physically or conceptually

Thinking space
Kennedy says around 95 percent of the artworks are made in response to a specific site, but adds, “even those placed after the death of an artist are very carefully considered. For the Alexander Calder, McKillen consulted the artist’s grandson Sandy Rower and architect Tadao Ando about the placement. For the Jean Prouvé houses, the late architect’s grandson Nicolas Prouvé collaborated on their restoration and placement.”

Andy Goldsworthy created <i>Oak Room</i> (2009) especially for Château La Coste’s grounds. Photograph: Vincent LerouxMost of the artists spend a long time choosing a location on the property. Andy Goldsworthy spent a month there making ephemeral works before he decided on his permanent Oak Room project—a net-like chamber dug into the earth and lined with woven oak branches—while Lee Ufan spent hours walking in the woods before deciding on a site for his House of Air. “The proximity to the vines, the view of the Alps, and the tranquility seemed to especially appeal to him,” says Kennedy.

“It always feels special when an artist responds to the environment. Permanent, in-situ works are here forever; they are impossible to displace, physically or conceptually,” Kennedy adds.

Red Lily Vineyards, an award-winning riverfront property in Jacksonville, Oregon, produces terroir-driven wines and has a 5,200-square-foot winery. On the market with Luxe Platinum Properties, an exclusive affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate.David Elswood, International Director of Wine at Christie’s, says art and wine are often found together, sometimes on a very dramatic scale, and other times in more subtle ways. He notes how “the cultural sensitivities needed for the full appreciation of both art and wine have many connections relating to tradition and history, alongside the more obvious sensory areas, and the two passions complement each other so well.”

A cultural calendar
The relationship between art and wine has been long established. Back in the 1970s, Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit Biever Mondavi were establishing a fine arts program at their Napa Valley winery at a time when there were few visitors to the wine region. And while it started modestly with Sunday art shows, the Robert Mondavi Winery has developed a full wine, food, and arts calendar that includes its popular Summer Concert Series, which has featured performers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett in its long history, and exhibitions by artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and Nathan Oliveira—as well as the work of less well-known artists.

The Hess Art Museum in Napa, California, houses the Hess Art Collection, which features work by Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and Francis Bacon. Photograph: Olaf NagelA tour of Napa Valley, California today offers an opportunity to see some significant works of art. Four miles north of the Mondavi estate, HALL St Helena and its nearby sister HALL Rutherford feature works by internationally acclaimed artists such as François-Xavier Lalanne, Jim Campbell, Jaume Plensa, and Nick Cave

Or head south and a half-hour drive takes visitors to the Hess Art Collection, acquired over five decades by Swiss businessman Donald Hess, who focused on a limited number of artists with whom he had a personal relationship, including Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and Francis Bacon.

James Turrell’s <i>Spread</i> (2003) is one of nine light installations at the Hess-owned museum dedicated to the artist, housed at the Colomé winery in Argentina. Photograph: Florian HolzherrAnother of Hess’s vineyards, this time in Argentina, celebrates the work of eminent American light artist James Turrell. At more than 7,500 feet above sea level, the Bodega Colomé vines are some of the highest in the world, affording visitors breathtaking views of the Andean highlands. But it’s not just the views that draw discerning visitors. Myrtha Steiner, curator of the Hess Art Collection, says Colomé is the perfect place for the James Turrell Museum as “there is no light pollution, which could disturb the appearance of the installations. It makes the visit a unique, ‘pure’ experience.”

Another of James Turrell’s installations at the Hess-owned museum is <i>Unseen Blue</i>, the world’s largest “skyspace”. Photograph: Florian HolzherrOpened in 2009, the 18,000-plus-square-foot museum is based on a plan created by Turrell himself and features nine of his light installations, representing five decades of his practice. It includes Spread (2003), a 4,000-square-foot walk-in environment of blue light, as well as Unseen Blue (2002), the world’s largest “skyspace”—a specifically proportioned chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky—which surrounds an interior courtyard and peaks in intensity at sunrise and sunset.

Steiner says the artist carefully “choreographed” how visitors would walk through the various colors of his work: “For Turrell, it is crucial that you start with green, followed by purple, that you first see the glaring light of Stufe [1967], before you enter the darkest piece, Slant Range [1989].”

The prize-winning <i>The Bush of Ghosts</i>, by sculptor Ben Carroll, was conceived for the Montalto Vineyard in Victoria, Australia. Photograph: Will SalterPresenting artworks in a vineyard also offers lesser-known artists a different route to the traditional galleries to reach new collectors. Australian sculptor Ben Carroll, who has participated in the annual Sculpture Prize run by the Montalto Vineyard in Victoria, Australia, found it carries a lot of prestige for sculptors: “Once I was aware of how much sculpture collectors focus on that annual collection of 25 to 28 works, I wanted to be part of it.”

Collective appeal
Having entered the competition five times, Carroll won the top prize this year for his work The Bush of Ghosts, which he created especially for the Montalto Vineyard. “Having spent a lot of time installing and de-installing my works there, I have spoken to hundreds of people who have come to the vineyard purely because of the sculpture collection,” he notes.

This historical Chianti estate is just 30 minutes’ drive from Florence, Italy. Dutch painter Christiaan Karel Appel lived here from 1989 to 2000, and one of his sculptures remains in the lavender garden. On the market with Agenzia Romolini Immobiliare Srl, an exclusive affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate.First launched in 2003, the prize enables the vineyard owners, the Williams family, to present an annual exhibition to draw visitors, while also adding to their permanent collection that now features 30 sculptures sensitively sited throughout the grounds. “We wanted to encourage visitors to explore the property and we felt that sculpture would interact with the beauty of the setting,” says Heidi Williams. “We do get some people who come for the art experience who may not have otherwise visited, but for many it is the complete experience [that attracts them].”

Barry Flanagan’s <i>Hospitality</i> (1990) watches over the old vines of Cabernet Franc at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, near Bordeaux. Photograph: The Estate of Barry Flanagan, 2017Another vineyard that has been adding to its art collection every year is Château Smith Haut Lafitte, one of the oldest wine properties in Bordeaux. Owner Florence Cathiard and her husband Daniel acquired their first piece, a large bronze by Barry Flanagan, in 1995 to celebrate their first great vintage. To date, the couple has acquired 32 artworks, including pieces by César, Wang Du, and Jim Dine that are now displayed around the château’s grounds and vineyard—but Cathiard says Flanagan’s bronze remains a favorite.

Watching over the old vines in front of the château, the giant leaping hare is
an indirect tribute to Bacchus, the Roman God of winemaking. “We loved that Barry Flanagan’s hares are ‘humanoids.’ The hare is also the animal of Dionysus and Bacchus; they are very important for winemakers, as they protect the vineyard from rabbits, which are the scourge of a vineyard!” she says.

A Vine of One's Own: A Buyer's Guide to Vineyards


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Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
is a Singapore-based journalist who has written for The New York Times, South China Morning Post, and CNN Style