Home & Garden

Vacation among the vines at the ranch house at Biddle Ranch Vineyard in Edna Valley

The Ranch House at Biddle Ranch Vineyard sits among 23 acres of chardonnay vines.
The Ranch House at Biddle Ranch Vineyard sits among 23 acres of chardonnay vines. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

When Led and Anne Fortini purchased Biddle Ranch Vineyard in 2012 with four other couples, they didn’t even notice the modest family home concealed behind overgrown shrubbery.

Likely built in the 1970s, the home was located in downtown San Luis Obispo at the corner of Caudill and Broad streets. According to Anne Fortini, not long after it was built, it was sold at a state auction and relocated to make way for the widening of Broad Street. For more than 30 years, it has been a family home at its current Edna Valley location, gradually expanding from its original 1,200 square feet as the family grew.

The owners’ first instinct was to make the single-level home, now approximately 3,000 square feet, into a tasting room. But they realized it would be “more valuable to keep it as a house.”

Anne Fortini, an interior designer, was owner-builder for the project that turned the modest family house into a luxurious vacation rental by owner. Her son Ryan Fortini’s company, Fortini Landscapes, created outdoor elements. Mother and son worked in tandem to fuse indoor and outdoor spaces to create a home that “interacts with the vineyard and gives people a chance to experience living among the vines,” said Anne.

Although she noted that the house was in “excellent condition,” finishes were outdated. Her goal was to create a sense of luxury with- out forgetting the home’s agrarian environment — a look she calls “urban barn style.”

Instilling luxury was the easy part. She chose highend furniture and appliances. Sofas and chairs are plush with down-filled cushions. Each of the three suites has luxury bedding and towels. The rear patio is outfitted with high-end, contemporary Janus et Cie outdoor furniture.

These indulgences are set against a backdrop of weathered woods and timeworn finishes. Fortini found numerous creative uses for salvaged materials in order “to preserve the integrity of what was originally there,” she said. Outdoor patio fencing is made from contractor’s scaffolding, whitewashed over the years by spilled plaster. Outdoor planters are old wood produce bins saved from trash piles, many bearing the names of local farms.

Inside, many of the wood furnishings are crafted from reclaimed wood. Interior moldings, pillars, and doors are made from old, weathered horse fencing purchased from the Creston horse ranch formerly owned by Alex Trebek. The crew sanded rough areas but left in the knots, the gouges — even “places where the horses gnawed on the wood,” said Fortini. These imperfections bring a sense of age and authenticity to the space.

Recycling wasn’t always the easiest solution. Workers took extra time to carefully pull up bricks from the home’s original patio and walkway, store them, and re-use them on the new front patio. Though it would have been simpler to buy new, the payoffs are added character and a connection to the home’s history.

The rustic farmhouse feel of the home continues with natural materials that bring a warm, textural element to each room. Floors are wide-plank, sawn European white oak with a grayed finish. Hammered copper for the kitchen island and dining table was made by San Luis Obispo company Native Trails. Sofas are draped in soft linen slipcovers. Dining chairs are casual, comfortable rattan. Even feet get a tactile treat with sisal area rugs and pebble-clad showers.

Fortini tempers rustic charm with a contemporary sensibility. Surfaces are uncluttered and furnishings have simple, elegant lines. She used a consistent palette of white and gray. Fabrics are understated, and most windows are dressed with unfussy, tailored valance boxes. For the living room fireplace, she skipped the standard farmhouse brick or rock, and instead chose sleek large-format porcelain tile.

Guests have many ways to interact with the 23 acres of chardonnay vines that surround the house. Two of the suites have a private patio. The large rear patio is equipped with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and a large area for dining. A lawn, which may someday be used for weddings, is encircled by Mediterranean landscaping, lush with fragrant rosemary, citrus trees, olive trees and figs that are just beginning to stretch their espaliered limbs across the back fence.

The Ranch House was completed earlier this year and has been used for everything from family vacations to corporate retreats. Fortini reported that the reactions have been positive — including her own. “When it was finished, both Led and I wanted to move in,” she said.