A New Leaf

When a Napa vintner moved to Amador County, she wanted to live in a space that blended seamlessly with the surrounding rolling vineyards and her busy lifestyle. With the help of two Sacramento architects, her Three Leaf House became a one-of-a-kind home.

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The back patio overlooks the rolling hills of Amador County.One way Sage kept costs down was by keeping the house’s construction as simple as possible. The swooping rooflines provide drama and interest, but the house is basically comprised of three stick-framed rectangles. Kraemer notes that she did choose to upgrade several of the materials once she saw the level of craftsmanship Glauz was bringing to the project. “It made sense to go for soapstone, not laminate in the kitchen and tile, not fiberglass in the shower.” As a compromise, she gave up a few things on her wish list, including a lap pool, a tub and a fireplace.

Two of the pods are connected by an enclosed breezeway, the third by concrete pavers. The original design called for all three pods to be separate, but the county deemed them too small to sanction as stand-alone dwellings, hence the addition of the connecting breezeway. In all, the house comprises 1,500 square feet, but feels much larger.

The soaring ceilings give the kitchen-living room pod the feeling of being in a cathedral. All of the detailing, from the cabinetry to the doors to the ceiling (whose curve is reminiscent of the staves of a wine barrel), is of Port Orford cedar that is oiled rather than sealed, so that it remains fragrant and has a subtle luster. “It’s soft wood, so it is going to get dinged up over the years, but it’s designed to,” says Kraemer. “Just as the concrete floor is designed to crack.”

The guest bedroom  and bathroom. “There are no hallways,”  says Kraemer. “All the space is used.” The breezeway leads to Kraemer’s bedroom, and her favorite room of all, the screened-in porch where she entertains—a visitor isn’t there long before bottles of Yorba Wines come out for tasting, a line that includes perfect incarnations of rare varieties like a Spanish Tempranillo and an Italian Barbera. About 20 percent of the vineyard’s output goes into Yorba Wines’ 1,600-2,000 cases a year, and the rest of the output is sold to Napa and Sonoma and other neighboring wine regions.

The labels for Yorba Wines are designed around Yorba family cattle brands from the 1800s, providing yet another link to family and home. Much like Kraemer’s house, these simple graphics are at once warm, familiar and modern—a reflection of the way in which Kraemer has so deftly reinvented herself from the ground up while never straying far from family and tradition, building a life that is at once independent and connected, in a house that could serve no other purpose for no other owner.

Telling ancestral stories from California’s early farming days makes Kraemer smile as she pours. The house may be new, but the stories that are told in its comfortable, shady regions are as old as the hills. “I always wanted to have my own ranch,” she says quietly, looking like a person who has finally discovered the true meaning of home. “And now I do.” S