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Napa Nouveau

January 07, 2016 Filed under: The Buzz

Inside a contemporary, private, resort-style estate in the heart of the wine country

Gentry Home

When developer Mitch Menaged and his business partner Gary Raugh first laid eyes on a 60-acre property off Silverado Trail in Napa, they were astounded. “It was just over five years ago,” recalls Menaged. “The property had been in the same family for decades and was filled with beautiful fruit trees, old-growth oaks, a massive organic garden, and a worn-down house.” Menaged and Raugh saw potential immediately. “The neighboring properties include Screaming Eagle, Robert Mondavi, Harlan Estate, and Opus One. The location is nothing short of extraordinary, and a beautiful hill on the property overlooks the valley with sweeping views,” says Menaged. “We knew that that was exactly where we should start.”They promptly enlisted the expertise of San Francisco architect John Maniscalco, lauded for his naturalistic modernist approach and sleek contemporary designs.

“Our biggest challenge,” relates Menaged, “was siting the house on the steep hillside and creating a driveway to reach it.” Maniscalco echoes that statement. “The driveway ultimately became the driver for the placement of the house.” With his trademark modesty, Maniscalco continues, “Once we had that, the rest was easy. It was our job, really, to get out of the way and let natural assets of the property shine through.” As any good architect will tell you, the mod-ernist vernacular is one of the most difficult to render superbly, but that is exactly what Maniscalco and his team do. The new home’s drive wends it way up the hillside, past a helicopter pad, ultimately reaching a gracious courtyard. Maniscalco’s ingenius design places a linear corridor, complete with water features, between the hillside and the home. “It helps reinforce the indoor/outdoor relationship that we wanted to create throughout the home,” notes the architect. “We took advantage of the hillside and dug a 2,000-bottle wine cave right into it. Guests walk down the corridor, turn to their left, and are immediately treated to a sweeping view of the Napa Valley straight through the home’s foyer that spills out to the 3,000-square-foot patio.”

Maniscalco organized the rooms in the home according to the sun’s path throughout the course of the day. “We thought about where the potential homeowners would want to be for morning sun, early afternoon, and sunset. The sunlight is one of the most amazing things about Napa Valley. We wanted to optimize experiencing it.” To that end, the Master suite, which includes a spa-like bath complete with steam shower and soaking tub, receives the glow of sunrise, while the kitchen, dining, and living rooms are situated to capture the last rays of the sunset—perfect for indulging in glorious wine country entertaining. The home is filled with green aspects, including a charging station for an electric vehicle, a solar array, a reverse-osmosis water filtration system, radiant heating, and centralized control of lighting, music, louvers, security, and electric shades. When asked about his favorite aspect of the house, Maniscalco says, “I relish the opportunity to frame views—whether it’s the wide sweep of the valley and sky reflected by the infinity-edge pool or a simple oak tree. My work is about celebrating those views and elevating one’s experience of them.” And those views include the property’s 60 acres, which Menaged and Raugh have planned as a private resort. “We know the family that ultimately selects this property will enjoy it for generations. To that end, we added just about everything you’d find at a five-star resort, from tennis and bocce ball courts to an organic garden complete with a honeybee colony, an outdoor kitchen, two guesthouses, and plenty of space for wonderful parties.” Most importantly, they hired Thomas River Brown (Food+Wine’s 2010 Winemaker of the Year) to consult on vine selection. He identified rootstock planted in three vineyard blocks that is capable of producing 100 – 125 cases of wine each year. Great wine, great views, and an incomparable setting—it seems that this just might be the ultimate modern wine country estate.

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