When Jared Burns, winemaker and founder of Revelry Vintners, was looking for an architect to put the finishing touches on his new facility on Peppers Bridge Road in Walla Walla, he knew exactly who to tap. His former Whitman College roommate, baseball teammate and fraternity brother, Blake Fisher, had since become an award-winning architect.
Burns, who founded Revelry in 2005 at the Airport Business District, had long since run out of room and had the opportunity to purchase 20 acres in the growingly buzzy south side of town.
Burns knew that before bringing Fisher on, the first priority was creating an energy efficient, functional space with room to grow. He enlisted Ketelsen Construction as his general contractor, with good friend Allen Ketelsen as the project manager and veteran architect, Alex DeMambro, to work with the 10,000 square-foot metal building. It was a great pairing, Burns said.
“Allen is a tremendous human being and builder,” Burns said.
In just 10 years in Walla Walla, DeMambro designed the Pioneer Park Aviary, the Gesa Power House Theater, Passatempo Taverna, Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen and more.
DeMambro has specific expertise as a winery architect, designing Force Majeure, Figgins Family Estate — where production will start next spring, he took over the design of Doubleback Winery and was the architect for the major renovation of The Walls in downtown Walla Walla, right next to Passatempo on West Main Street.
While Burns waited to pass the baton to Fisher for the aesthetics, he relied on Ketelsen and DeMambro to get the most bang for the buck out of the functionality.
“There’s no wasted space,” Burns said. “That’s a trick we learned out at the airport when we had no space.”
By the time Burns reached out to Blake, the building was in place.
“I made a few changes to make the silhouette into that of a century barn,” he said. “This is old farmland and I wanted it to reflect that history.”
Since their days at Whitman, Fisher, who had always loved to draw, spent a summer at the University of Washington building his portfolio for architecture school. It was actually a father of a baseball teammate that sparked his interest.
“He was the head guy at a big firm globally and said he really liked hiring people with a liberal arts degree who then went back for a master’s in architecture,” Fisher recalled. “I didn’t even know that was a thing.”
Fisher went on to receive his master’s degree at Tulane School of Architecture in New Orleans, landing his first job at Trahan Architects. His first project was the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame, which won an American Institute of Architects award.
Fisher went on to work for a string of firms including Errol Barron & Michael Toups Architects in New Orleans, Chadbourne + Doss Architects and NBBJ, both in Seattle, before starting his own firm, Blake Fisher Architects in Edmonds, Washington. At NBBJ he was the lead on the Denny Substation and REI Headquarters.
Burns met Fisher at a bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and started with the rendering of the front elevation, moving some pieces around on a laptop.
“Over an hour and two beers, that’s what you now see as the front of the building,” Burns said, laughing.
Burns wanted the siding to give a nod to board and batten — a folk architecture technique — and wanted the roof to be galvanized metal, but he relied on Fisher to bring warmth and character to the space.
The entry to the stark white building with contemporary double-swing doors was softened with the use of white oak on the façade. That theme continues inside with oak used on the ceilings and throughout the tasting room as a balance to the glossy dark cement floors and sparse furnishings.
“Quarter-sawn oak was the one non-negotiable material,” said Burns, who noted that wine barrels are made from white oak. “But I love the look of the quarter-sawn staves on the barrel head that show the characteristic fleck in the wood grain.”
Fisher incorporated post and beam construction distilling Jared’s vision reminiscent of a barn if you were to build it out. The impressive glassed-in wine cellar was the last addition on the fly, according to Burns. The area was originally slated for offices and with the change Fisher was challenged with how to finagle the staircase with the ceiling height.
“I didn’t want it to fit into a catch-phrase architectural style like ‘industrial modern’ or ‘farmhouse modern,’” says Burns. “I wanted people to walk in and think ‘I don’t know what it is, but I like it.’”
The project went on to win an American Institute of Architects award for Central Washington — DeMambro submitted it for consideration. The panel didn’t quite know how to label it.
“I think one panelist said ‘je ne sais quoi’ for lack of better description,” Burns said.
“It was just so fluid and easy to work with Jared and Allen and his team,” Fisher said. “Ketelsen is the best (general contractor) I’ve ever worked with.”
The feeling is mutual. Between connections at Ketelsen and referrals from DeMambro, Fisher has several projects in Walla Walla including the renovation at St. Patrick’s Parish and a high-profile residence already turning heads.
“If anything, Blake is too humble,” Burns said. “He’s a heck of a talent; his star is rising.”