Rainy Cali day and thoughts turn to warmer days and wineries, give this a read….
Contrary to first architectural impression, not every Napa winery is either a stylized barn too good to be true or an exercise in Mediterranean make-believe.
There’s austerity as well as opulence, understatement along with over-the-top. You simply need to know where to look.
Hence this handy cheat-sheet of sorts: six wineries on the valley floor that offer an enriching range of stylized craft.
There are no winding mountain roads and no too-obvious destinations. If you know the valley, you’ve already visited Robert Mondavi Winery (mock-Mission at its best). Architecture buffs have already tried to pull strings and visit Dominus Estate by Herzog and de Meuron, the Swiss architects best known locally for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.
Which leaves plenty to choose from, no two even remotely alike.
Our counter-clockwise journey begins with the most surprising sight of all: Quixote Winery.
When plants spill from the uneven brick-lined roof and hallucinogenic tile patterns compete with a golden dome for attention, it’s clear that Napa’s weakness for pretentious theatricality is being tweaked.
The winery was founded by Carl Doumani, a pioneer in Napa’s resurgence, and the design is by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – a legendary Austrian architect who died in 2000 and has no other buildings in the United States.
Even if you don’t make an appointment, the building is worth a detour for the show. At the rate the landscape is filling in, you may not be able to see it for long.
6126 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-2659. quixotewinery.com
This winery is closer to what one expects in the valley, a barn-like form where thick stone walls frame a central bay of stained wood. The path to the tasting room entrance is shaded by a wooden pergola draped with wisteria vines.
What sets Sinskey apart is that there’s substance to the mood: a disciplined design by Oscar Leidenfrost that is resolutely modern in spirit.
The interior follows through with compressed drama, a long vaulted tasting room that’s a dim delight – “like you’ve entered a cathedral,” says one San Francisco architect. He’s not that far off.
6320 Silverado Trail, Napa; (707) 944-9090. robertsinskey.com
There’s not much curb appeal to this small facility tucked behind a sluggish gate. So why make an appointment? Because it’s the purest example of contemporary design among Napa wineries, industrial and artistic at once.
There’s no building per se, just a concrete-coated V-shaped cut into a ridge. Set against one retaining wall is a 30-foot-deep canopy that protects equipment from sun and rain.
The scale shifts at the entrance, where old bottles form a half-circle around the front door. From the outside it’s as if you’re walking through a sponge. Inside, the bottle-filtered light has a stained-glass effect as you enter barrel-lined caves, ribbed and rough like corduroy pants.
“We didn’t want a visitor center experience,” Hourglass owner Jeff Smith says of the design by Olle Lundberg. “We wanted to put people in the knuckles of what we do.”
Open by appointment only. Call (707) 968-9332, Ext. 17 or e-mail marybeth@hourglasswinecom
Larkmead Vineyards’ architect is Howard Backen, designer of choice for wineries that are among Napa’s most rarefied and remote. This one, though, is as approachable as can be: a streamlined update of a Victorian farmhouse next to a well-kept barn, all nestled among vineyards off Highway 29.
The tasting room is part of the farmhouse, next to a screened-in porch. Production occurs in the barn, the lone 21st century flourish being solar panels on the roof.
Backen’s touch is in the proportions, the ambiance. You feel this is what the entire valley was like, long ago, before all of us arrived.
1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga; (707) 942-0167. larkmead.com
Larkmead’s rustic romance aside, early Napa was more like the brawny historic triptych at Beringer Vineyards – a massive stone winery from 1877 flanked by stucco-covered warehouses from 1931.
Ignore the faux-Italian “carriage house” and the trinket-laden tasting room redo of one of the gaunt warehouse wings. Instead, sign up for a tour and then enjoy the ruggedness of the original space, and the enormous, scarred turn-of-the-(20th) century barrels still on display.
2000 Main St, St. Helena; (866) 708-9463. beringer.com
And now for something completely and comically different: Del Dotto Estate Winery.
You descend past statuary lions and a fountain into a tasting room that makes Las Vegas look shy. The marble pillars are 175 years old. The ceiling tile work is based on the Doges Palace in Venice. The architect was “Elio,” a staffer told me, and he brought a crew from Italy to get everything just right.
Excessive? Absolutely. But it’s excess at an intimate scale – and besides, let’s face it, excess is part of today’s Napa every bit as much as a not-bad Merlot.
1445 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena; (707) 963-2134. deldottovineyards.com
Interesting story and wanted to share with you.
Peter Giovannotto is smack in the middle of a major shift in the Bay Area housing market.
The Peninsula real estate agent recently had a modest Palo Alto ranch-style home draw 38 offers and sell in eight days for nearly a half-million dollars more than the asking price, all par for the course in Palo Alto’s overheated real estate market.
“We started at $1.2 million and ended up selling for $1.65 million,” he said.
A flock of eager buyers competing for fewer-than-usual homes for sale is sending prices soaring along the Peninsula, where Googlers and Facebook employees duke it out with foreign investors for a place to live.
In other parts of the Bay Area, pent-up demand has helped create a hot market for lower-cost homes, with buyers having to move fast to grab foreclosures and be prepared for stiff competition on other homes for sale. In Contra Costa County, pending sales of single-family homes are up about 62 percent from last year and inventory is down 32 percent — a seller’s market.
“We are getting lots of multiple offers on lower-end properties,” said Barbara Safran, president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “One person told me they had 12 offers on a property in Concord.”
The winning bidder on the Palo Alto home was a Google (GOOG) employee from China, highlighting two trends: the rise of the wealthy tech buyer and the buyer from Asia. “We’re seeing lot more buyers from that region,” Giovannotto said. “It’s difficult to buy property over there, and the power of their money is greater over here.”
Another Palo Alto home drew 10 offers recently, selling for $325,000 over the asking price.
In the East Bay, a relatively small supply of lower-priced homes and an increase in demand has homebuyers jumping.
Two couples working with Danville real estate agent Kevin Kieffer of Keller Williams used the “strike first” method Kieffer advocates to grab their homes this month. He tells clients that in this market, they have to make a bid almost immediately, not wait until the weekend when the bulk of buyers are looking. If it’s a foreclosure, the bank is likely to welcome a decent offer, he said.
Cameron and Rissa Kossen bought a bank-owned Martinez house that’s near Pleasant Hill schools for $313,000 by making an offer quickly. Had he waited until the weekend, Cameron Kossen said, other buyers would have made offers and “it would have gone up to $330,000 or $340,000.”
Another East Bay couple, Ken and Ashley Wilson, were outbid on three homes before landing the fourth, a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Pleasant Hill.
“The housing market is moving so quick that houses would come on the market and my wife and I were having to make decisions almost at that minute, because there were others willing to purchase the home right then,” said Ken Wilson, who works at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
On both sides of San Francisco Bay, real estate agents say fewer homes than usual are for sale.
“Menlo Park and Palo Alto are both desperate for inventory,” said Wendy McPherson of Coldwell Banker in Menlo Park. She said that Palo Alto recently had only about 30 homes for sale.
Ray Chavez of Alain Pinel in Los Gatos sold a home in Santa Clara that received five offers in six days and sold for $17,000 over the asking price of $609,000, a big bump in that market for a small home.
“It’s amazing what’s not out there right now,” he said. “There are only 32 homes in the whole city of Santa Clara. We’re down 74 percent from February 2011.”
The threat of historically low interest rates rising further — the rates rose above 4 percent this week — combined with increased confidence in the economy is bringing out buyers who have been holding back.
“I think it’s a little bit like Christmas,” said Safran of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “People finally started buying again this Christmas when they hadn’t bought for three years. I think they’re just ready. It’s time.”
Sales were up across the Bay Area in February, the strongest showing for that month in five years, according to DataQuick, a real estate information service.
Silicon Valley is having its fourth-highest year in sales since 2000, said Richard Calhoun of Creekside Realty in San Jose. Calhoun, who has tracked the inventory of homes for sale in Santa Clara County for more than a decade, said that in some parts of Silicon Valley, including the Palo Alto area, the entire stock of homes for sale would be exhausted in less than a month.
“The housing market has definitely bottomed and is on a recovery path,” said Ken Rosen, chairman at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC Berkeley. “I think it is a real recovery happening, around the whole country.”
Contra Costa County, saturated with foreclosures, is still 18 months away from a full recovery and a normal housing market, Rosen said. “There’s going to be a spillover from San Francisco and the Bay Area, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Some would-be sellers on the Peninsula seem to be holding out until next year, when Facebook’s newly minted millionaires will begin spending their money, potentially driving up prices even more.
Sellers are “getting greedy” and pulling homes off the market, said Alex H. Wang of Rainmaker Properties in Los Altos. “They get multiple offers on their house and say, ‘I don’t want to sell anymore. I’ll wait until next year.’ That upsets everybody.”
In case you were not aware or missed it, Dunbarton Bridge will be closed this Memorial Day. For more info pls see:
A little more about Real Estate sign of the time….
Mary Ann Azevedo
Reporter – Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal
One Silicon Valley executive is willing to trade his 10,000-square-foot home in Los Gatos for a stake in Facebook Inc.
Yes, you read that right.
A Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who took Media Arts Group Inc. public in 1994, thinks the social media giant’s pre-IPO stock is so valuable that he’s willing to give up his home. A home that sits on an 11-acre private park.
Linda and Kenneth Raasch bought the property in 1997. It was valued at $4.7 million in 2011, according to the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office, which shows a square footage of 7,749.
Alain Pinel’s Rick Ardizzone and John Howmille have worked as the Raasch’s Realtors for years. Ardizzone said Raasch “wants $29 million” for the estate.
Built in 1989, the estate has six bedrooms, several bathrooms, a two-room guest apartment, two separate four-car garages and a motor court.
He has lived in the house with his family for more than 15 years but is prepared to trade it in to get a piece of the Menlo Park-based company’s equity.
In an exclusive interview with the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal on Friday, Ken Raasch said the unusual move stems from his perception of Facebook’s potential.
“I’ve never seen a company that’s so transformative,” he said. “I’d love to get in on it. I want to be a part of it.”
Raasch is hoping that Facebook investors or pre-IPO executives will be interested in his house in exchange for some shares.
“I saw the Facebook investor (Yuri Milner), who bought a mansion in the Los Altos Hills for $100 million, is one of the top shareholders,” he said. “I wondered if he has any friends or knows Facebook people who’d be interested in a home. That’s how I came up with the idea.
Raasch currently serves as CEO and chairman of Creative Brands Group Inc., a Los Gatos-based brand management and licensing company, according to his bio.
Prior to founding CBG, he co-founded Media Arts Group Inc. with his friend and well-known artist, Thomas Kinkade. Raasch also served as chairman and CEO of Media Arts Group from 1990 to 1999. Under his leadership, the company went public on the NASDAQ in 1994 and transitioned to the New York Stock Exchange in 1998 before Kinkade acquired it in 2004.
He is also the founder of Mercy Ventures, a nonprofit foundation, and is on the board of directors for Acts of Mercy.
Silicon Valley – Lots of competition for well-priced homes in popular areas. The market is picking up, especially under $2 million. In Los Altos, more buyers are getting ready to move, trying to beat the Facebook crowd. Speaking of FB, see my next Blog) Multiple offers are happening in half of the sales. Creating inventory continues to be the biggest challenge in Los Gatos. The same story is echoed in Palo Alto, where inventory is almost as low as in 2005 – with extreme demand. Buyers are competing for homes under 500K. Sellers who feel the market has improved and now they can ask more don’t sell. However, buyers are willing to pay top dollar for “turn key remodeling.” In Saratoga, even though we’re experiencing multiple offers below the $2.5 million level, the inventory remains very low. Managers are encouraging agents to tell their sellers that this is the time to place their homes on the market. We’re experiencing many multiple offer situations. Anything below $3,000,000, if priced correctly, seems to be selling fast. Buyer’s agents seem to be frustrated as there are 5 to 15 offers on each property. This is the time for agents to concentrate on getting listings as they are gold in a market like this.
SF Peninsula — Sales activity is on the rise and there is a definite positive attitude in the buyer’s market. Five to seven offers on Burlingame, San Mateo, Belmont and San Carlos properties are becoming the norm. Buyers are waiving contingencies and appraisals after going through four or five tries to buy a property and losing out. There are also a many cash buyers, which adds to the frustration of those trying to buy with conventional financing. The luxury end of the market is also picking up. We are seeing the early Facebook/tech company etc. buyers coming to Hillsborough and in many cases making cash purchases. Coast side realty agents are enjoying the overflow from the Peninsula with all their multiple offers. This overheated market continues to be short on inventory and long on buyers. All the buyers who have been ‘sitting on the fence’ for the past 18 months have now all jumped off at the same time. Realtor compare it to stock market anticipation. In Palo Alto, extraordinarily low inventory is resulting in numerous multiple offers. It’s a very frustrating market for buyers and agents alike. Woodside and Portola Valley are not experiencing the frenzied activity that we are seeing in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Price points are higher and sales are slower. The higher the price, the more cautious the buyer. Many younger buyers want more urban, close to town and transportation locales. In Redwood City, the few open houses in the area had had an amazing amount of people through. San Carlos properties are selling very quickly usually with multiple offers. Redwood City seems to take a little longer but if priced correctly in a good location homes are also getting multiple offers but usually not as many. Belmont inventory is also low but again if priced right in a good location they are also selling. The main drive seems to be affordable money and lack of inventory. San Mateo inventory levels are dropping lower and lower. Buyers are out there as multiple offers indicate. The high-end market is also improving.