Newton Vineyard Puzzle Tray

 

California winery inspires limited edition tray available at Circle Art in Miami

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By Fred Gonzalez | fgonzalez@miami.com

California may be known for its wineries, but South Florida – and Miami in particular – is becoming known for being a top spot of wine consummation in the U.S.

Think about it. How many wine festivals do we have here? From United Way functions to wine expos to the big one – the South Beach Wine & Food Festival every February – Miami is always ready to enjoy a good bottle of wine.

Of course, to drink a good wine you need a glass. But what else could you use? Well, what about a unique, one-of-a-kind wine tray? Being Miami, people here love to host a good party, and when they do they certainly want to deliver in a unique way. The Newton Vineyard “Puzzle” Tray does the trick.

Part of Newton’s “Eco-Chic” series that encourages the creation of sustainable products that honor the eco-friendly winery, the “Puzzle” Tray was created by a pair of Chicago-based designers and only 112 were made – the same number of vineyards at Newton that make up their signature, iconic blend The Puzzle. The sizeable tray which embodies a deep, rich wooden feel is perfect for hosting a wine gathering, with it’s removable pieces just right for serving cheeses, fruits or spreads. The tray contains a corkscrew and is sturdy enough to hold several glasses of wine of various sizes. 

With a select number hand crafted, the tray comes with a solid-as-Walnut-wood price tag of $499 and is available in Miami at Circle Art at Home (1560 Lenox Ave. Suite 101) or at www.newtonvineyard.com

To meet the tray’s designers – Bruce and Stephanie Tharp – is to see a thorough, thought-provoking couple who are meticulous in how they approach their craft. From debate to collaboration, they find a way to blend their skills into their pieces, much like Newton winemaker Chris Millard. The very relaxed Millard eschews a deliberate patience when conveying the story of the Unfiltered wine making process at Newton, which is then evident in the taste of the final product. The vineyard produces two reds – a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merolt – one white – a Chardonnay – and The Puzzle, a blend made up of four red grapes whose combination changes each year based on the harvest. (The 2008 Puzzle, currently on shelves, features its solution on the back of the bottle as 42 percent Merlot, 36 percent Cabernet, 6 percent Petit Verdot and 2 percent Malbec.)

For more on the “Eco-Chic” project, the design duo of Bruce and Stephanie Tharp and Newton’s winemaker Chris Millard, see below the images.

Newton Vineyard, the American leader in unfiltered wines and a pioneer in sustainability on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley, debuts its fourth annual “Eco-Chic” project which blends the art of natural winemaking with modern eco-conscious design. 

For the 2012 collaboration, Newton selected contemporary American designers Bruce and Stephanie Tharp of Chicago-based studio materious to design a tabletop piece evoking Newton’s rich history and commitment to eco-conscious philosophy as a luxury accessory for its Unfiltered line of wines.

After a visit to the winery’s Spring Mountain estate, where they observed the unique and deep interaction between winemaker and nature, the Tharps produced the Puzzle wine tray, a limited edition set of handmade walnut wine service trays. Each of the 112 hand-crafted pieces debuted in April 2012 and will retail for $499 and be sold via www.newtonvineyard.com, and in Miami is available at Miami at Circle Art at Home (1560 Lenox Ave. Suite 101). 

The collectors’ item, which will be numbered and imprinted with the artists’ insignia, is intended to function as a service piece for Newton’s Unfiltered wines, including its icon blend, The Puzzle, a blend of the finest grapes harvested from the winery’s 112 vineyard blocks. Newton Vineyard winemaker Chris Millard has played an integral role in the “Eco-Chic” series since its inception in 2009, selecting each artist based on sustainable sensibility, approach in capturing the vineyard’s own unique design aesthetic, and consistent use of ecologically responsible materials.



Bruce and Stephanie Tharp, who were first drawn to product design as a means of “harnessing nature and creating culture” produced the Vineyard Block “Puzzle” tray to reflect all facets of the winery’s purist ethos. Signature design details include:
  • A basic shape that represents the golden rectangle, a traditional Western concept of harmony and proportion
  • Asymmetrical cross-hatching based on a Chinese motif reflects not only the architectural aesthetic of the estate, but also mirrors the division of Newton’s properties into vineyard blocks, on which different varietals are grown and harvested
  • A “hidden cave,” a recess below the upper right block, holds a Newton corkscrew, evoking the Chardonnay cellar built into Spring Mountain to conserve energy and harness the earth’s natural temperature regulation

Multifunctional “puzzle pieces” created by the bisecting lines reveal removable blocks in the surface of the tray:

  • blocks then become coasters for serving wine and cheeses or other pairings 
  • recessed areas in the tray secure a wine bottle or small bowls for hors d’oeuvres
  • coasters are characterized by “terraced” edges, evoking the slopes of Spring Mountain and unique terracing which conserve water and retain natural nutrients

 

Bruce and Stephanie Tharp’s collaboration with Newton follows Michael Wisner’s “The Element” ceramic wine chiller (2011), John Pomp’s popular recycled-glass “The Touch” decanter (2010), and Claire Danthois’ limited collection of 5 eco-friendly wine tasting bars made of 100% reclaimed materials (2009).



Bruce and Stephanie are both tenured professors in the College of Architecture and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). They leverage the everydayness, ubiquity, intimacy, and physicality of domestic products to create new, valued, and discursive relationships. Their work ranges from the speculative to the commercial—at times aiming for provocation and perturbation, while at others, sustenance and service. Despite diversity of intent, process, product, and use-context, ultimately they wish to imagine new possibilities for human-object relationships.

They have exhibited in Milan, Paris, Chicago, and New York, with their work represented commercially in Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, Russia, across Europe, Canada, and South America. As design academics, they have lectured in Europe, Asia, across America, and in Mexico.

Millard started as an unenthusiastic Computer Science major in college, then parlayed his analytical skills to an industry more aligned with his passion for wine. He went on to major in Enology at Fresno State University. His first job after college was at Bernardus winery, starting in the cellar and ending his 4-year tenure there as Assistant Winemaker. In 1998, he left to manage Bridlewood before moving on to Sterling in June 2000.

Chris joined Newton Vineyard in May 2008 – an interesting parallel given that Peter and Su Hua Newton founded Sterling vineyards in the 1960’s and sold it before creating Newton Vineyard in 1977. While at Sterling, Chris discovered an appreciation for mountain terroir working with their Diamond Mountain Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. At Newton’s Spring Mountain Estate, Chris is located on the same Mayacamas mountain range that defines Napa Valley’s eastern border and can leverage his expertise with intensely concentrated mountain fruit.

As Newton Winemaker, Chris continues the legacy of producing the winery’s highly acclaimed wines, including the Unfiltered Chardonnay and its Bordeaux-style red wines from the estate on Spring Mountain in St. Helena. 

“Newton Vineyard is a very special place,” he says. “The rugged terrain can be difficult to cultivate, but the purity and intensity of flavors in fruit from this estate are great. All of the 112 vineyard blocks are different; each one becomes a unique component that helps create the final composition. Even with a single varietal, I have a lot of options for blending, which helps me make a more interesting wine.”

Newton's custom-built winery was carved into the hillside property and designed to create an ideal palette for blending distinctive wines. For Newton's award-winning Chardonnay, Chris maximizes the eight separate galleries in the Chardonnay cave by grouping similar barrel lots together to allow for optimal fermentation of individual batches. To craft Newton's acclaimed red wines, he takes advantage of the winery's small tanks to keep the fruit from each vineyard block separate before artfully blending them to create the final Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Bordeaux-blend red wines. The Newton wines range in price from $80 to $60 and in South Florida can be found at area Total Wine stores.

 

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