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|NO SOUR GRAPES with this newly built 3 BR, 3-1/2 BA stately home settled atop the mountains near Front Royal. Custom lighting, tons of entertaining space, and a wine tasting room where a connoisseur can raise a glass (or two).|
Armed with a love of wine and a dream to open a winery, Randal Joyner and Jorge Castillo left the hustle and bustle of D.C. behind for the mountains, fresh air and vineyards of Linden, Va. There they created Allegre Hills, their mountaintop dream home with a full-bodied view to the future.
RANDAL: We’re both wine enthusiasts. [After moving in together in Alexandria] we started driving out here, and we met all of the wine makers. We started entertaining the idea of planting a vineyard, and that was the impetus to look at property out here. The vineyard is still in the works — we want to live here through two cycles of the seasons before we commit to that, because it’s a lot of work and time and energy.
JORGE: We’re about 1,600 feet above sea level. What’s interesting is that, from observing the plantings that we have, we are about two weeks behind the growing cycle down in Front Royal.
RANDAL: We have a microclimate up here. There’s almost always a breeze, and often times serious wind. All of this was cleared already — that was attractive to us. We didn’t have to come in and knock out trees for the view.
JORGE: It would be nice to have some older trees nearby, but we see it as an opportunity to create our own landscape.
RANDAL: With a house and 20 acres of property there are a lot of projects, so we just have to tick them off as we get to them. Trying to create something from nothing out here has been fun but challenging.
JORGE: [In the dining room] I love this vase. We found it in an antique store in Merida, Mexico. It’s signed ”Weisl.” It didn’t come with paperwork, but the gentleman indicated to us that it was a 1940s piece from Germany. We fell in love with it because the shape is very unusual. And reds are always very difficult to achieve in glass because of the type of chemicals they have to put in the glass. We’ve been doing some research to see if we can find the artist. We are hoping we have something very special, given what we were told in terms of 1940. But it’s special regardless.
RANDAL: [In the sitting room] One of the things that we wanted to do was a fair amount of millwork in this formal space. We had the cornice and the draperies done at a silk company in Sterling and so I think they complement the paint and the feel of the room. We have artwork from my travels around the world. I’m very pleased with how they fit into this.
JORGE: Some of the window dressings in the living room, dining room and master bedroom were custom made. The other ones we found on the Internet and selected through swatches. I could not be more pleased with the results — they sent us stuff and it fit perfectly.
RANDAL: You’ll see a collection of Chinese mud figures here and in my office. I have 80 or 90 of them, collected over the last several years. Since we’ve been building the house I’ve sort of stopped, because I haven’t had time to do any shopping. They are all from a certain period of time, the late 1800s to around 1914, with a China stamp underneath that authenticates them. Some are more rare than others, just given the color of their robes. Oxblood red is extremely rare. Women are also very rare. I found one at Dewey Beach at the bottom of an aquarium. It was stuck to a piece driftwood in an aquarium — people often don’t realize what they have.
JORGE: [In the living room] On our first date [Randal] took me furniture shopping. He needed to buy some furniture, so we selected the materials together.
RANDAL: We drove to Fredericksburg, had a nice lunch and shared a bottle of wine and talked. We got all these pieces at the same time [a sofa and two chairs].
JORGE: We selected all the lighting for the house. When we showed up at the shop they were amazed — we had a spreadsheet, we laid out every room. We didn’t want to rely on what the builder told the store and we wanted to make sure we didn’t have to go back two or three times.
RANDAL: [In the wine tasting room] Jorge did the painting here. We have friends around and taste various wines. We bought the old barrels from one of the winemakers we know in the area. They get rid of them or sell them or cut them in half and use them as planters because their usefulness in terms of aging wine is over.
JORGE: We left the concrete floors. Eventually we’ll strip them one more time and stain them, although I’m liking them just like that right now. We want to leave it rustic.
RANDAL: [In the wine cellar] This is a passive cellar. We don’t have a cooling system in here — that’s why we keep the doors closed. As long as we can keep it around 60 to 62 degrees, we’re happy. We have a 1,600 bottles capacity. Clearly we don’t have that, but we’re working on it.