REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Vine arts: Be Nelson's Pat Kluge

ADDRESS: 499 Winery Lane

NEIGHBORHOOD: Beech Grove, Nelson County 

ASKING: $575,000

2006 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $215,700


SIZE: 1,288 fin. sq. ft., 784 unfin.

LAND: 12.13 acres

CURB APPEAL: 5 out of 10

LISTED BY: David Ferrall and Sharon Stacey, Mountain Area Realty, 434-361-2440 

Unlike most properties reviewed in On the Block, this article is not about a house. It's about a picturesque 12-acre property with a thriving vineyard that offers a chance for someone interested in joining the elite pool of local vintners to stomp right in.

Of course there's a house, a modest little cottage, and it's interesting to think what living here must have been like at the time it was built just after the turn of the last century. Amid larger tracts– it was originally possibly a farm manager's house for a large farm, the main house of which is across the road– it's snugged against a little hill in a dip in the surrounding mountains– including Wintergreen Resort right near its doorstep. 

It apparently consisted at first of four rooms and a large attic. Now the attic has been opened, accessed by a flight of steep stairs and converted to an attractive master suite with full bath and skylights. Being newer, it's the most appealing part of the house, which is otherwise merely functional. 

On the main level– which itself is up a flight of stairs, thanks to a ground-level, dirt-floor basement– the front door opens from a roomy porch to a living room that opens to the kitchen beyond. To the left are two connected bedrooms– one of which might better serve as a dining room since it adjoins the kitchen. 

At the back, an addition contains a full bath and laundry/mudroom– upgrades that make the place feasible now as a weekend getaway, but undoubtedly not alluring enough on its own to tempt a buyer in this price range. And as functional as it is as a rustic retreat, now the little place is an anomaly amid the extravagance of Wintergreen and Stony Creek mansions and chalet hideaways for both year-round residents and week-ending golfers and skiers.  

So it's not a place you'd invite your chi-chi K-Street friends out for the weekend. But this property has something no Wintergreen extravaganza of granite and glass can boast: a beautiful, flourishing vineyard, its vines on the day we visited heavy with succulent fruit.

Now we're talking value for money. The agent reports that in 2005, the first year of production since the vines were planted in 2000, the owner reaped six tons of grapes that she sold to nearby wineries for bottling (Wintergreen Winery is conveniently just across the road). 

The agent also notes that a visiting California vintner estimated that the infrastructure (posts, trellises, stakes, ties, sprays– and 10-foot-high deer fencing around the entire 4.5 acres) needed to bring the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grapes to fruition represents $90,000-$100,000– or roughly $20,000 per acre. And that doesn't count the work of laborers and planners.

But this isn't a wine column, and house-hunting readers who don't give a fig about grapes are no doubt wondering why on earth they should even consider such a place. Two reasons: several wineries are standing by ready to assume the whole burden of managing the vines and the crop. That's one– no obligation to work the spread.

Second– and possibly more interesting to people looking for just the right vista in just the right spot– a couple of killer building sites on the property above the vineyard and the cottage provide views of the entire surrounding ring of mountains. Build your dream house and offer the cottage to the help.

Now the place takes on a different cast. With the south fork of the Rockfish River constituting one boundary– ideal for wading and fishing or watering the vineyard– and Wintergreen five minutes up the road, this property is, as noted above, about more than a house.

For insider types looking to hop on the trendiest bandwagon around, growing grapes and pressing wine seem, if not to have surpassed, at least to be neck-and-neck with playing polo, opening an art gallery, or having a getaway retreat with million-dollar views at a mountain resort.

Oh, wait. 

The agents are holding an open house Sunday, October 14, 1-4pm. Call agent for directions.

Photos courtesy of the agent