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House of the Year, Second Place: A Napa Valley Home With Acres of Cabernet Grapes

WSJ.com’s 2020 House of the Year winner will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Click here to read about our second runner-up from Jackson, Wyo.

Twenty-one years ago, Carson and Suzanne Levit were looking for a summer respite from their home in San Francisco, where Mr. Levit worked as a hedge-fund manager and private investor. The home they purchased, now a six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 5,268-square-foot Napa Valley home, scored 10,838 votes, the second-most in WSJ.com’s annual House of the Year poll.

The family eats meals and entertains in the living space around the pool.



Photo:

PAUL ROLLINS/SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The couple initially found the 4-acre property during a trip to the resort Auberge du Soleil and made an offer for it on the spot. They paid $4.2 million for the Rutherford, Calif., home. “We were so mesmerized by the garden and the stone walls,” said Mrs. Levit. “The former owner was an avid gardener, and she would work alongside two full-time gardeners to maintain it. The main house was basically an old ranch, which was sort of cute when we purchased it. Ten years in, it really was just getting run down.”

In 2010, they tore it down and built a new house and made substantial upgrades to the landscaping. With the help of architect Hal Taylor, the original three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot house was replaced with the current home. It is modeled after a French country estate with modern, open interiors.

The driveway is lined with rows of Sycamore trees.



Photo:

PAUL ROLLINS/SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

The airy great room has an open plan that connects it to the kitchen and the dining room. Pocket doors at the end of the room open up to the pool, vineyards and dining area, while French doors also help bring the outside in. The antique limestone fireplace was sourced by Mrs. Levit, who also used French limestone flooring in the great room and throughout the home.

The kitchen features a tiled backsplash that Mrs. Levit found at a design center in San Francisco. The gas range and oven are from La Cornue and other appliances are Subzero. It has floor-to-ceiling pocket walls so it can be closed off from the larger living area or kept open for a more flowing space.

The back wall of the great room opens up to the pool.



Photo:

PAUL ROLLINS/SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

Exposed beams are a theme throughout the home, seen in the great room as well as the bedrooms. The ones in the great room were sourced from the Midwest. The architect wasn’t a fan of their weathered look. “He was ready to ship them back and was horrified by the whole thing,” said Mrs. Levit. “So in the end, there was some rusticity that we did have to work on a little bit with these great tradesmen that we had.”

The master bedroom has a Swedish blue and white color scheme that Mrs. Levit loves. “It’s very soft and soothing, sort of peaceful and doesn’t compete with the outdoors.” The room also has a fireplace with a limestone surround, which echoes the one in the great room, and a terrace.


French Country Living in Napa Valley

The seller tore down the original property and built this home in its place.

The kitchen has French limestone flooring and appliances from La Cornue and Sub-Zero.

PAUL ROLLINS/SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

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The first-floor bedroom is large enough to be used as a second master. All of the second-floor bedrooms have views out on the vineyards.

The pool house, a stone structure that was one of Mrs. Levit’s favorite things about the home when she first saw it, was initially set up as a workout space with one bedroom. In the past year, the Levits renovated it, adding new French doors, new windows and a new bedroom. There is a wood-burning fireplace and the living area has a pitched ceiling with beams, which Mrs. Levit felt “added a bit of character to the space.”

The 60-foot pool was added by the Levits. The property also has a five-hole putting green, an outdoor fireplace with a sitting area and a volleyball court, which could be turned into a tennis court.

The property has 2.5 acres of Cabernet grapes, a varietal for which the area is known. The grounds also have rows of Sycamore trees and English rose gardens. The property is within the Rutherford Bench, a section of the Napa region noted for its wines. The couple sells the grapes to vendors.

The Levit family on Easter 2020. From left: Carson, Alexis, Suzanne and Carson.



Photo:

Levit Family Photo

The home’s blue shutters were very important to Mrs. Levit, who spent a great deal of time comparing different shades to get just the right color.

“We had these wonderful decorative painters that were incredibly patient and helpful,” she said. “I was intimately involved in the choosing of the blue.”

The couple recently listed the home because they are now spending more time at their other properties. It is for sale for $12.9 million with Ginger Martin of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Corrections & Amplifications
The Levits’ home is listed for $12.9 million. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it was listed for $12.9. (Corrected on Jan. 28)

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