3030 Concession Rd. 3, Adjala-Tosorontio, Ont
Asking Price: $5,499,000
Taxes: $13,585.15 (2022)
Lot Size: 68 acres (268.28 by 3,215 feet)
Agent: Johane Lefrançois, broker, Johnston & Daniel Division, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. Co-listed with Peter Mickus, Sales Representative, Johnston & Daniel.
Over the space of 20 years, John Pennie went from wanting to build a wind farm, to building a house with a concert hall, before ultimately planting a vineyard and building a winery on his Hockley Valley estate north of Toronto.
The 68-acre plot was a farm and a gravel pit when he purchased it more than 20 years ago, and at 1,000 feet above sea level seemed like a decent spot to place some wind turbines for his former company Windrush Energy.
“After testing the wind we discovered the wind was not as strong as out in the Grand Valley area,” he said, and the company placed three green energy projects in that area over the next 15 years. With no plans for energy in Hockley Valley, he suggested to his partners that the land might make for a stellar home, one that he wanted to design himself.
In the mid-1980s Mr. Pennie built a Tudor-style home in Caledon, Ont., inspired by the scenery near the Windrush River in the Cotswolds region of England. Choosing the highest point on the Hockley Valley lands he was determined to build something that could function as an entertainment space and showpiece; thus Windrush Chateau was conceived, finishing in 2003.
The almost 11,000-square-foot building is like a hybrid of a barn and a medieval cathedral, with its cross-shaped structure and a gambrel roofs. Inside all the wooden structural supports in the ceiling are exposed, as are dozens of century-old beams salvaged from Ontario barns. “Some people say this looks like the inside of a Viking ship; upside down of course,” Mr. Pennie said.
Mr. Pennie’s wife, Marilyn Field, is a musician and music teacher who started the Darearts Foundation charity, which touched the lives of thousands of children over its more than 20 years of operation. The need to hold investor meetings for his business and fundraisers for her charity led to quite a number of concerts and dinners held inside the huge structure.
“We can sit 60 people for dinner in the great hall or 100 for a concert,” Mr. Pennie said . Over the years they have hosted intimate concerts for local music festivals, been used as a studio for streaming performances during COVID and raised a lot of money. Where Mr. Pennie once chipped in with prep work for these events, at 83 he’s finding himself with less energy and motivation to put out 100 chairs for guests. “I found I need to make a change in our lifestyle,” he said.
The house today
As the laneway winds toward the main house the hillside falls away to the right and a thicket of trees shrouds the hilltop on the left.
The main entrance is on the end of one of the cross-pieces (called a transept in cathedral-speak) and the double doors open into an uninterrupted chamber that extends to a wall of windows on the opposite wing. Glass-railed stairs climb up on the left to the second-floor loft (and down to the lower level) next to an elevator, while a huge dining table dominates the central hall, which is open to the ceiling and those long-boat ceiling supports.
On the right is a long hallway that runs past a separate pantry/servery to the large eat-in-kitchen. Anchored by a large U-shaped island (“They can lay out 60 plates for plating,” Mr. Pennie said, “they” being chefs brought in for events, such as their friend J.P. Challet, formerly of the Windsor Arms and at Auberge du Pommier) that is surrounded by river-stone floors and backsplashes, the room has walls of windows on two sides flanking a stone-faced hearth.
A patio wraps around the kitchen connecting it to the pool deck outside (which is actually next to the front door, why is a long story involving zoning) and there’s more entertainment space and views commanding the heights of the north table of Hockley Valley.
Just off the dining room is Mr. Pennie’s office (complete with a boardroom table) and a main-floor primary bedroom suite with its own fireplace and more views of the valley. A short hallway past the stairs takes you to a guest bathroom and a second office for Ms. Fields.
Downstairs is a gym, garage access and what is currently set up as an office complete with cubicles but which could be a stand-alone apartment or in-law suite complete with its own full prep kitchen and window-wall walkout to the grounds.
Upstairs is where those soaring ceilings take centre stage.
This is the largest open space in the house, and from the top of the stairs there are two zones separated by a glass-railed walkway. On its own above the kitchen is a 32- by 40-foot studio space with grand piano that could host an entire brass band plus choir, which of course would fill the house with music.
On the other side of the hall is more living space, a sitting area acts as the foyer for two large bedroom suites, each with its own full bath. The room on the right has a staircase to a loft space above, the highest point in the building that looks out on everything.
A semi-public private estate
The couple has been hosting events at Windrush as part of their burgeoning wine business, but the only downside to the property is that while it comes with a five-acre vineyard with about 6,000 plants, Mr. Pennie is taking the winery equipment with him. The couple is keeping the wine business, which they can do because they don’t use the grapes grown on the land.
“We have a vineyard here that’s too young to harvest for a premium wine,” Mr. Pennie said. The way it works in Ontario is you’re able to bring in outside grapes to make wine even if your grapes aren’t producing yet (Mr. Pennie estimates the current grapes are a few seasons away from maturity). That does mean that a buyer could some day set up their own winery in the vacated winery building, or convert it to a horse barn, or whatever they desire.
The concerts and fundraisers; acres of trails and bush; the vineyard and winery; Mr. Pennie hopes someone who buys the property wants to keep up or build on the estate’s role in the community. “We [built] it for ourselves and our friends and charitable purposes,” he said. “We’d be happy if somebody bought it and wanted to have a hybrid lifestyle.”
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