Real Estate

A winemaker's dream

New structure supports winemaking and olive-oil production

A doorbell decorated with grapes announces visitors to the home of David Bulfer and Kelly Pope. That's fitting, since they recently built a wine workshop and are educating themselves about winemaking.

Since 1997, the couple has lived up a little cul-de-sac near Westwind Barn in Los Altos Hills. An initial remodel in 1998 did not include their old barn, but by 2010 it was time. The original scope of the project was simply to add solar panels to the roof of the barn, but city regulations required a new structure to support that goal.

And so, this multifunctional workshop to store winemaking and other equipment was conceived.

"Lucero Vineyard," reads a sign above the winemaking tank in the completed structure, underscored by Robert Louis Stevenson's "Wine is bottled poetry."

A mural evocative of Tuscany's sun-kissed hills and foliage covers one wall, while the purple tinge to the sloping concrete floor and tiles behind the sink lend aesthetic unity as well as make for practical cleanup.

"We made it functionally enhanced and aesthetically gorgeous," says Ilona Lindauer, founder of IKB, the design firm that implemented the project. "They now have this incredible space for making and tasting wine -- rather than in the garage.

Pope and Bulfer use the space for all kinds of gatherings, from board retreats to friends and family winetasting events and pizza parties centered around the Italian outdoor pizza oven.

"People live life together," Bulfer says.

"We wanted to integrate more of the fresh food, Italian way of living, and have a place to share that," Pope elaborates.

Bulfer and Pope were able to closely supervise the project from their house.

"It was very nice to be in a nice home and be able to see the project whenever you wanted," Bulfer says. The couple lived in a trailer on the property during the first remodel.

Pope counters, "Your day is a bit more interrupted because you're on the property and your builders are also."

"Plan everything completely in the beginning," Lindauer adds. "The build becomes an implementation. There are no horror stories."

Pope and Bulfer are pleased with the way the building turned out, and credit their contractors with the success.

"Our architect looked at our main house and tried to mirror the design," Pope says. She credits IKB with contributing "function as well as atmosphere," and IKB won a Chrysalis Award for Remodeling Excellence in the Detached Outbuilding category in 2011.

"There's this sense of the outside coming in," Lindauer says. "The overall feeling that this building reflects, it's lovely. It invites you into the space."

In keeping with the original goal of adding solar panels, the new structure is quite responsibly built -- LEED-certified and "so earthquake sound it took nine trucks of concrete," Pope says. The solar panels have lowered the couple's annual energy bill to about $350, Bulfer says.

Pope and Bulfer emphasize that they have more to learn about winemaking and hope the workshop will serve as motivation.

"The hardest part is growing a good grape," Bulfer says. "If worse comes to worst, grapes are beautiful landscaping."

In addition to zinfandel grapes, the couple also grows olives, with an eye toward producing both olive oil and cured olives. They purchased five organic, Tuscan varietals from McEvoy Ranch, including Moraiolo, which yields a fruity oil, and Pendolino, with a light and delicate early-ripening stock.

Despite the couple's shared love of Tuscany, Bulfer says of the updated property, "I can't imagine anywhere else in the world I'd want to live."

Resources:

Designer/builder: Ilona Lindauer, IKB, Los Altos, 650-941-4384

Architect: Chris Grasso, Santa Cruz, 831-425-6538

Landscape architect: Connie Lefkowits, Los Altos, 650-941-1624

Goal of project:

Add solar panels to old barn, which project quickly expanded into building a new structure to store winemaking and other equipment

Unanticipated issues:

Access problems with electricity and concrete trucks; need to redesign threshold after damage by dropped door

Year house built:

1974

Size of home, lot:

860-sq.-ft. workshop, 4,000-sq.-ft. house on 1.3-acre property

Time to complete:

6 months

Budget:

$600,000

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