Design Lifestyle

OC WINE COUNTRY

A secluded four-acre estate in the hills of Cowan Heights comes complete with vineyards, groves of olive trees, and a working winery that produces award-winning all-OC-grown vintages

The real estate edict about owning oceanfront property because “they aren’t making it anymore” is true—truisms often are. But the fact is that there are hundreds of prime properties on the water along Orange County’s 42 miles of coastline, while there’s only one Peppertree Canyon. 

A 100-year-old olive tree takes center stage at Peppertree Canyon.

We were introduced to the four-acre inland estate hidden in the hills of Cowan Heights by Blue Door Magazine member Maura Short. The one-of-a-kind property is a private urban farm, vineyard, and working winery with an olive tree grove, fruit orchards, and wooded hiking trails on the grounds. There’s a 5,000-square-foot Tuscan farmhouse where the owners of the retreat reside, a resort-style guesthouse with pool and spa, and a 4,000-square-foot winemaking facility that produces an award-winning, 100 percent estate-grown Sangiovese.

The first 1,400 grape vines were planted on the property in 2013 and the inaugural harvest was in 2016. That original Peppertree Canyon vintage, a bright and fruit-forward wine that has been on the list at Farmhouse and other select OC restaurants, won a Silver Medal at the Orange County Fair. 

Chefs also prize the extra virgin olive oil that is grown, hand-harvested, and bottled right on the farm. The owners of Peppertree Canyon planted a grove of 100 trees when they bought the property, including Frantoio, Pendolino, and Leccino cultivars.

A view of the expansive Peppertree Canyon property at dusk, with vineyards in the foreground. On the left is the Tuscan farmhouse, which was originally built in 1969, remodeled in 2007 and again by the current owners in 2013. The winery building on the right was added in 2013. It doubles as an event space when not in use for crushing, bottling, and labeling the wine. Features include large doors that open onto the vineyards, cold rooms, a full kitchen, and video screening capabilities. The loft space upstairs includes a yoga studio, lounge, and playroom.

The couple who created this magical place didn’t buy the property with an urban farm and winery in mind. They purchased it from a developer who intended to subdivide the four acres. The wine-loving duo soon realized that the Mediterranean-like temperature and terroir make the land ideal for growing olives, grapes, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees. Soon enough, they were rehabilitating the land, which had been filled for development. Large tractors ripped through the fill, they added organic materials and gypsum, tested the soil, and repeated the process many times to create a an environment right for the vineyards. They also went through the exceedingly complex process to obtain the zoning, permits, and other approvals to run a fully-bonded winery on the property. 

The result is a beautiful and bucolic place, unique in Orange County, where most everything grows.  

How many properties in Orange County have a hiking trail—not a little path, but a winding, climbing, meandering path through the woods and past meadows overflowing with wildflowers? The trail circles up and across the ridgeline that is part of the property, leading to a cabin that has a treehouse feel, pergolas, and a daybed covered in wisteria blooms each spring. That daybed offers a view similar to this. It’s the owners’ favorite vista, from which they watch the full moon rise above the mountains beyond.

Peppertree Canyon is not currently on the market, but a visit to the remarkable spot raises an obvious question: What’s the value of a property such as this? It’s surely more than the price of a Cowan Heights acre, times four. There’s the value of the winery business, as well. Orange County was once the epicenter of the best farmland in Southern California. Now, few acres of farmland remain, so future owners will have a rare opportunity to continue an agricultural legacy. When all the elements are included, the value equation grows exponentially. In many respects, Peppertree Canyon is priceless.

“We are blessed with the privilege to be stewards of the beautiful, unique, spiritual place that is Peppertree Canyon,” the owners say. “When the time comes, we hope to pass that privilege on to one who will value it as we do.” 

Peppertree Canyon | 9902 Rangeview Drive | Cowan Heights | peppertreecanyon.com

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