Welcome Home | An Agent’s Vineyard Getaway in Napa Valley

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

Wine Country has long been an ideal getaway for city-dwellers, and for good reason. Often within driving distance of urban centers, vineyards offer visitors a rural oasis where rolling landscapes are complemented by fine dining and spa-like comforts.

As working outside the classic office setting becomes increasingly common, homebuyers are looking to wine country not as a staycation destination, but as a place to reside year round. Peggy Burgess Wilkinson, of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Wine Country Brokerage, was decades ahead of the trend. Here she recounts how she found and fell in love with her spectacular Napa Valley home.

Sotheby’s International Realty: Why did a home in Wine Country appeal to you? Was this something you had always wanted?

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

I was living and working in San Francisco as an attorney in the early 90s when my husband and I looked at each other one August weekend and understood clearly that old adage, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” We decided to take a weekend drive up to Napa Valley in search of a small rental house with a pool.

After a fair amount of research, we discovered that there wasn’t one single home for rent that met our criteria. Not wanting to head back to the city without seeing a single property, we flipped through one of the real estate magazines and came across a photo of a home that was listed for sale or lease. We decided to take a peek.

From the moment I walked through the door, I knew I wanted to live there. It was a very emotional experience, and one that made no sense at the time considering our lives were well established in the city. We thought perhaps we would be able to lease the property, but in the end, the sellers determined they only wanted to sell. After some negotiation and a fair amount of time we were able to have our offer accepted. The house we have lived in for over 20 years is truly the only house we ever looked at as buyers.

Sotheby’s International Realty: What was it about your home that spoke to you? Was it the vineyard, or were there other factors?

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

I was drawn to both the house and its adjacent barn because of their character and history. The dairy barn was built over 100 years ago, and the home had been a quaint farmhouse when it was originally constructed in 1913. I loved the old crosshatch windows, the many peaked roofs, and being in a setting which was rural yet very close to town.

The vineyard came a few years after, when we began to understand what was necessary to develop a vineyard and a wine label. For the first 15+ years, the label was a family affair, with strategy meetings and the occasional late arrival to school when the grapes needed to be picked. In 2016, we replaced our vineyard and planted a new varietal, Petite Sarah. By this time, our son was a viticulture and enology major at Cornell, and he has become our winemaker for the 2019 vintage.

Sotheby’s International Realty: How have you transformed and renovated your home in the time you’ve lived there?

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

We’ve lived here since 1993, so the house has been renovated a number of times. The first big change came when we were expecting our third child and needed an additional bedroom. We decided to create a master suite on the ground level and another bedroom, bathroom, and playroom upstairs. When our kids aren’t here, we live very comfortably in the lower level of our home with plenty of space and comfort.

In 2016, it was time to update our kitchen and living room. I selected everything that went into the renovation and learned more than I ever wanted to know about cabinetry, hardware, paint, and stain. The result is that our hundred-year-old home has joined the 21st century, with a rustic feel with all the modern conveniences. I selected European white oak for our kitchen and family room floors and was able to tie them into the existing hardwood, with a transition section installed in a herringbone pattern in our front hallway. I love creating solutions to design challenges posed by the existing structure.

Sotheby’s International Realty: How did you approach modernizing your home while maintaining its original charm and style?

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

My number one priority was that the addition feel like it was part of the original structure. That entailed having many windows custom made, replicating the unusual rooflines of the house, and some amusing trips to brickyards attempting to match our extensive brick patios. Another thing we added when we completed the renovation was a screened porch. We’re able to use it as an additional room for over six months of the year, and it feels like it was always part of the home.

Making a house into a home requires a personal touch, bringing in things that you love and connect with. I collect baskets, and I’ve created a space so that the entire collection can be viewed in one place. We’ve done a lot of traveling with our family and I’m always looking for interesting textiles and decorative pieces that blend with our style. I’m drawn to natural fabrics, soft hues, and items that are handcrafted.

Sotheby’s International Realty: What’s the best thing about living in a vineyard home? What are your favorite features?

Photo courtesy of Peggy Burgess Wilkinson

I love the different seasons the grapevines experience, from harvest time in the late summer sunshine, through the winter when the vines are dormant. Vineyards always represent a unique backdrop for a true Wine Country home. It requires a bit of compromise, however, since the vineyard itself necessitates continued attention, and we have a vineyard manager who helps us maintain the property. We also have a huge vegetable garden, and an even larger orchard with so much incredible fruit.

There are so many special areas on our property, from a secret garden off the master bedroom to the barn hideaway that serves as an overflow family room when our kids come with friends. I feel so fortunate to live in a home with both history and character; not all older homes have the latter, but if you search for the unique features that resonate with you, and build your designs and renovations around that feature, the result will be a dream home grounded in a sense of time and place.

Looking for more home inspiration? Read about an agent’s refreshing outdoor space, and find your next vineyard retreat.


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