Vines, wines and roses
A recent benefit concert on behalf of the Land Trust featured western swing kings Asleep at the Wheel – and it was held at Pilot Peak, one of Nevada County’s most enchanting set tings, especially on a fragrant, musical summer evening. I was lucky enough to attend. Moreover, the moment I saw the hilltop home, I thought, ‘ This home is as magical as the evening.’
Known for its award-winning wines, Pilot Peak hosts many such worthwhile events. It’s also a popular wedding venue. Many a memorable photo has been taken of the bride and groom under the arbor that leads to the pink and white rose garden. With backdrop views of Sacramento, Davis and, on a clear day, Mt. Diablo, surely, no promise of a life together was ever sweeter.
With its French chateau style stone fascia and distinctive windows, the home and grounds are rich in European influences. Surrounded by verdant, well attended lawns and statues, an artistic coy pond, a fenced duck pond, and a swimming pond for people – as well as many graceful willow trees – it’s a setting that would inspire an artist to paint or a poet to write. The ever-present breeze is fresh and tinged with scents of freshly-cut grass, rosemary and roses as well as a hint of ripe apple from the nearby autumn garden.
A Sauvignon Blanc vine yard adds its own distinct color, shape and texture to the home’s surrounding landscape. Now that I’ve told you a little about the setting, let me intro duce you to the owners, Len and Nancy Stevens. Residents of Penn Valley for almost a quarter of a century, they’ve lived in this family home for the last seven years. Len, a local contractor, designed and built the 4,400-sq.-ft., two-story home on its 62 hillside acres himself, with the help of many local subcontractors.
“With four bedrooms, two offices, game rooms and five baths (plus a to-die-for ‘guy’ garage, which I’ll tell you about later), this truly is our family home,” says Len. “Nancy and I decided the plans had to feature two floors, with the first floor to include the master bedroom and bath. That way, we can live here for the rest of our lives.”
“As our family tree grows,” Nancy adds, “it’s important that they always feel welcome to visit for as long as they like. In fact, the crib in the master bedroom corner is ready for grandchild number two.” I couldn’t help but think how blissful a baby might feel waking up in such a light, peaceful environment. The views alone – from here and from every window – would engage and calm the most tearful soul, be it a baby’s or an adult’s!
” The views change with the time of year, even the time of day,” Len explains, “and we designed the home to showcase each aspect. I’m a great believer in planning a home from the inside out, that’s why ours rambles in a European-style way. It’s less about symmetry and more about living. Informal and inviting, each part of the home has its own pur pose and its own distinct feel.”
Mason John Cammon spent six months crafting the extensive stone work that lines the drive, graces the fascia and comprises the floor-to-ceiling fireplace in the great room. Dana Ettlin of Oak Tree Landscape created the outdoor artistry. John Delahunt of J D Cabinets built and installed the rich cherry cab inets in the kitchen and throughout the home.
Nancy is the force behind the drama, simplicity and warmth of the home’s decor, and she’s balanced quiet dignity with a sense of fun and spontaneity. One of their daughter’s bedrooms features a surprise splash of pink paint with a reminder over her bed that reads “Always kiss me goodnight.”
The rock-solid family bond that exists in the Stevens family is evident throughout, with many family photos on display. The two-bedroom, two-bath guest house on the other side of the coi pond features many of the main home’s features in miniature. This home was built as a home for Linda’s Mother, where she could enjoy independence with her family close by.
Convention suggests that a woman occupies her home (including much of the kitchen cupboards, closet and bathroom space, as well as every drawer). Men, however, are often more at home in their own territory – the garage. Well, Len’s garage, which houses a 1969 RSZ28 Camaro, a Shelby Coupe and a Super Performance Cobra, is definitely his haven (without a perfume bottle in sight).
Green as the scenery
All the gas fireplaces are heater rated, and very efficient. ” The 30-kilowatt solar system is one of the three largest in Nevada County,” Len points out, “and it’s reduced our energy bills from an average of $800 a month to $4.” The home also features dense insulation with reflective ply wood barriers. Instead of typical Mediterranean turquoise-tile colors, the swimming pond fea tures natural materials and colors. Not only does it look more authentic, but it also negates the need to heat the pool.
With two “can’t-wait-to meet- you” Golden Retrievers, cats, exotic birds, Peking ducks and two mules, this home is action packed, yet has its own quiet dignity. It’s magnificent, yet unpretentious. With the surrounding vineyards, a love of family and , the land and its gifts, the saying ” in vino, veritas” comes to life.
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