Restoring a Diamond in the Rough


(Domaine Serene Wine Lounge | Photo courtesy of BLRB Architects)

Domaine Serene Wine Lounge Enchants Downtown Bend

There’s more than what artistically enchants the senses to the white quartz bar top, the forest green leather chairs, the gaslight black steel fireplace and the windows seemingly stretching from the barnwood floors to the ceilings at Domaine Serene Wine Lounge in downtown Bend.

Every decorating and design detail was carefully considered to enhance guests’ wine tasting experience. For example, a wood-burning fireplace would have competed with the layers of fresh blueberries, marionberries and huckleberries in the 2019 Abbey Oaks Vineyard Pinot Noir.

The white quartz allows wine enthusiasts to study or admire the wine’s rich colors.

The team who took on the challenge of renovating the diamond in the rough 1917 Spheir Building carefully preserved the brick and lava rock walls, the architectural framework, the windows and more to honor the building’s past and celebrate its present.

Opened in December of 2021, the Domaine Serene Wine Lounge offers a food menu inspired by 75 world-class wines produced by Domaine Serene in Dayton, Orregon, and Château de la Crée and Maison Evenstad in France.

Heidi Slaybaugh of BLRB Architects shared the 1917 D.H. Spheir Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “Turning a quite unnoticeable old building into a showcase of historic preservation at its best in Bend is something I’m very proud of,” Slaybaugh said.

Sphier or Spheir … the history of the building

Slaybaugh shared that when she was researching the building’s history for the National Register of Historic Places, she found two different spellings of the last name in newspaper articles and records. In large chalklike letters on the interior brick wall, it reads, “Domaine Serene Wine Lounge, Spheir Building, 1917 Bend.”

When Daniel Hanno Sphier purchased the property in 1916, the buildings in downtown Bend were mostly wood-framed buildings. Built as a six-storeroom building in 1917, the Sphier Building is one of the largest original brick buildings in downtown Bend. It represented the beginning of permanent development in Bend’s downtown corridor. The Sphier Building was home to several businesses starting with the Bend Dairy. It was also used as the post office, offices for the Bend City Council and the Bake-Rite Sanitary Bakery. The last tenant was Trivia Antiques, now at 632 NE First St.

The building’s history reflects the chapters of Bend’s own growth from wood to brick buildings.

Renovating the building

Slaybaugh said there were two contractors working on the project at the corner of Minnesota and Bond streets. High Timber Construction did the facade renovations and the warm shell portions of the lounge space. Schommer & Sons provided the tenant improvements and the finished work for Domaine Serene. “One key thing when working with old buildings is for the design team to get out of the way of the building and let the building show us what it should be,” Paul Schommer of Schommer & Sons said. “The building’s architectural structure was pretty impressive.”

Schommer said it was the team’s task to add modern amenities such as air conditioning and steel reinforcements to go flawlessly with the building’s original red brick walls and lava stone. The team also had to adhere to Domaine Serene’s high standards in everything it does from farming the grapes to producing the wine to pouring it for guests.

“Domaine Serene is the most awarded winery in America,” Schommer said. “They want their lounges to have a control environment so people can enjoy the building’s aesthetics while also enjoying the wine. The idea is to blend the experience of the building so the building doesn’t take away from the experience of the wine.

“The thoughtfulness that went into every detail of the Domaine Serene Wine Lounge in Bend is an extension of their commitment to quality in everything they do.”

Slaybaugh said the Spheir Building is once again beautiful inside and out while it also reinvigorates the level of commerce in its heydays. She said the six tenant suits along Minnesota have new accordion storefront windows and the transom windows were restored. “We spent a lot of effort to restore and highlight the historic lava rock walls in the basement, the brick walls on the main floor, and the floor, ceiling and roof framing members,” Slaybaugh said. “A completely new steel structural system was strategically integrated into the building to carry floor and roof loads, while also serving as the framework of the wine tower and mezzanine.”

Garrett Peck is the general manager at Domaine Serene Wine Lounge. On a tour, he shared the main floor is for general guests, who can dine by the black steel fireplace with overstuffed forest green leather chairs, at the white quartz bar or a table by the windows. The mezzanine and the two cellar rooms are reserved for wine club members.

There are several elements of surprise and wonder designed into the wine lounge. A glass floor provides a sneak peek into the basement, only accessible by a hidden door.

Peck carefully opens the secret door to a staircase leading down to the two members’ rooms — The Burgundy Underground, a rustic dining room, and the Spirits’ Underground, with a speak-easy décor. “There are lots of secrets everywhere you look and hidden tributes to the building’s history,” Peck said, pointing at glass bottles and other artifacts found when renovating the building.

He marveled at the building’s original wood where barely a knot could be found. “Everything Domaine Serene does, they do to their best ability. They never leave a stone unturned,” Peck said. “The stewardship and the craftsmanship on this building honors its history.

The lava walls in the Spirits’ Lounge are decorated with black and white and sepia toned photos honoring Bend’s days as a timber town and Domaine Serene’s history.

Peck said before the renovations, the basement had a dirt floor and was rumored to once be a speakeasy. “The Spirits’ Lounge is where Matilda hangs out. Some staff members have seen a woman with long hair and a white apron down here and have seen glasses move about.”

Back to the main floor, Peck took the stairs to the glass-railed mezzanine, also for members only. There are members’ climate-controlled wine lockers. Peck said Domaine Serene has many wine club members who live in Bend. “We have wine lounges in Portland and Lake Oswego in addition to our tasting room in Dundee,” Peck said. “We felt if we were going to add another wine lounge that Bend was definitely the spot.”

Both Peck and Slaybaugh said they could go on about all the building’s intricate details carefully put into place to help guests enjoy their time at Domaine Serene Wine Lounge in Bend. “It’s an honor to be the steward of this historic building,” Peck said. “It’s been transformed from a diamond in the rough to this welcoming and elegant wine lounge.”


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