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El Dorado Stone

Homes: By Mary James • Photography by Martin Mann

Above The Vines

A winery residence blends city style with a country setting...

A TUSCAN VILLA? A bordeaux chateau? A Spanish estate?

"No, never ever," says Rebecca "Pepper" Wood, when asked about the residence she and her husband Ira Gourvitz envisioned among the vineyards of their North County winery. Instead the couple wanted the antithesis of their 1936 Spanish Revival home in Mission Hills — one story, not two; light-filled, not dark; and modern, not vintage.

Wood, a certified public accountant, and Gourvitz, a Northern California transplant who formerly owned a Sonoma vineyard, purchased Fallbrook Winery in 1998. Last year, syndicated wine columnist Robert Whitley lauded it as "Southern California's greatest winery," noting that its award-winning wines are poured at many of the region's "most wine-savvy restaurants."

In 2002, when they added to the winery acreage, Wood and Gourvitz set aside four acres for a new home atop a hill with vistas that arc from mountains to the coast. When the remodel of a 1960s-era adobe on the property proved too costly, it was torn down to make way for a new home designed by Del Mar architect John Nalevanko, who has known Wood since her SDSU graduate school days.

Circled by vineyards and groves of avocados and citrus trees, the 5,800-square-foot residence with its distinctive silvery gabled roof evokes a traditional farmstead with 21st-century verve. "It's a classic look but still modern," Nalevanko says.

In addition to reflecting heat, the metal roof's overhang shelters broad patios along the "social zone" of the house, home to the open kitchen, breakfast nook and living and dining rooms. All are open to the verdant backyard via rolling glass doors and flooded with natural light from skylights 29 feet above, which line both sides of the roof's flattened ridge.

Tall architect-designed front doors are clad in metallic laminate subtly embossed with grape leaves. It's one of many shades of grey found throughout the house, including stained-concrete floors warmed by radiant heat, the basalt-stone fireplace surround and Caesarstone kitchen counters. Eclectic art, ranging from abstract paintings to Wood's collection of giraffes and a soft-sculpture chef affectionately known as Marcello, personalizes the expansive space.

Bons vivants, Wood and Gourvitz host family, friends and winery clientele at gourmet dinners that often begin next to a kitchen island where Wood cooks while Gourvitz pours Fallbrook vintages chilled in their 1,500-bottle wine room. Natural cherry cabinets are a warm foil to stainless-steel appliances — two of each (refrigerators, ovens, cooktops and dishwashers). "The kitchen had to be equipped for wine dinners and charity events as well as small dinner parties," says Wood.

Square dining room tables, custom designed by cabinet-maker Danny Monroe, can be pulled apart for buffets or combined to seat 12. Sleek Ligne Roset chairs are clad in bold blue, red, orange and green microfiber.

The same jewel tones color contemporary furnishings in the living room where guests gather around a fire for dessert. On warm evenings, parties often spill outside to an alfresco living room with a fireplace, wet bar and starlit views over the vineyards.

Overnight visitors, including Gourvitz's three children and five grandchildren when they are in town, enjoy the spacious two-bedroom, two-bath guest wing steps away from the three-car garage. Rolling doors invite cooling breezes and views over the lawn and bocce court.

Adjacent to the garage is an exercise room and home office with two L-shaped desks where the couple manages winery business. Closets and a full bath give future owners the option of converting both spaces to bedrooms.

At the opposite end of the home, stretching past the guest bath, is the master suite that can be closed off from the rest of the home by pocket doors and climate controlled by zoned air conditioning. A custom bookcase rises to the ceiling along one bedroom wall, housing books, family photos and mementos from the couple's extensive travels. Across the hall, his and her bathrooms flank a shared walk-in closet.

At the end of the hall is a luxurious spa room showered in sunlight throughout the year. Both Wood and Gourvitz relish the glass-enclosed steam room and shower: "It warms you up and loosens you up," Wood enthuses. But her favorite amenity is the soak tub centered in the room. "I love tubs," she says. "You'll find me in it once a week or more often if I have time."

Planning and then construction of the home by Wardell Builders took almost four years. On Labor Day in 2009, the couple left their urban life for one in the country — and never looked back. "I love waking up in the morning to see the sun rise over the hills," Wood says. "Ira is happy driving to the vineyard on his ATV. I love the quiet. The hawks circling. It's wonderful."

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Perhaps it’s because the “cottage” with the wavy, cedar-thatched roof on the cover of our July issue looks like it could be the home of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that I was immediately intrigued by a press release I received this week.

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