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San Diego Magazine - January 2014 - image of cover
San Diego Magazine / January 2014 / Design: Accidental Winemakers

Design: Accidental Winemakers

At the Encinitas home of John and Bonnie Manion, European charm meets modern living, lush landscape overlooks the Pacific, and the end of each day is toasted with a glass of homegrown Syrah.

by Kimberly Cunningham | Photography by Shelley Metcalf
The Manions' home


1 acre

2,800 square feet, plus an 800-square-foot barn. Two bedrooms, two baths

1930s Spanish ranch house meets Napa Valley rustic

Their story:
John and Bonnie Manion never set out to be winemakers. But when they purchased this neglected lot in 1999, the yard needed help. The Manions wanted something low-maintenance and drought tolerant. Bonnie had an agricultural background, working as a garden writer for and her own blog, After lots of research, the Manions decided to plant a vineyard, but winemaking is not for the fickle hobbyist. It took about three years to produce a drinkable wine. Today the couple's vintage, Domaine de Manion, is winning awards at local fairs. It's all part of what Bonnie calls the "divine lifestyle" she and John have built together. Back in 1999, the existing 1930s Spanish house was falling apart and the garden was overgrown. But, as Bonnie describes, "It was the property perched high on a hill, with a beckoning magnificent ocean view, mature trees, and quiet privacy, that tugged at our hearts." The couple enlisted architect/interior designer Bill Bocken and contractor Robert McCarron to transform the residence, now complete with a two-story barn where they harvest grapes and sample the fruits of their labor. The whole thing was a "big experiment," Bonnie confesses. "But it's turned out
so much better than we ever could have imagined."

Que Syrah Syrah
The couple chose a Mediterranean Syrah varietal for the vineyard, which spans about one-third of an acre, with 22 rows and 13 vines per row. "Growing the grapes is the hardest part, because you truly are a farmer," says John, a software sales exec by day.

Private and Serene
Olive trees, trailing rosemary, and purple verbena bonariensis surround the home's pea-gravel courtyard. French doors open into the living and dining areas, which overlook the vineyard and beyond. Architect Bill Bocken says, "What I love most is the sense of serenity you have when you enter the site."

Open and Airy
The living room's dramatic cathedral ceiling features gray-stained cedar beams. The flooring by Arto is specialized concrete made to emulate terra cotta tiles, with a smoky gray overtone. For the cocktail table, Bonnie topped a vintage chicken coop with glass. The ornate piece in front of the fireplace is from a Paris flea market.

Chicken Coop
John and Bonnie greet their Buff Orpington chickens, Gracie and Tilly. "I've been combining my love of chickens and joy of gardening for 10 years," says Bonnie, who's the co-author of a book called Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies. The ipe hardwood deck is purposely unoiled, so it doesn't show footprints and turns with the weather to match the house's gray trim. The teak chaise lounges are from Tuesday Morning.

Tasting Room
Ten-foot-tall barn doors slide open, welcoming visitors to the distinctly European two-story barn that houses a wine-tasting room, office, and guest quarters. The Manions, who love to entertain, host a big harvest in September, where they process the current year's crop of grapes, and drink the previous year's barrel-aged wine. A master carpenter custom-made the table with repurposed wood from Montana. The vintage pub chairs are from Village Consignment in Solana Beach. "I love to hunt for antiques and vintage pieces," Bonnie says. "Collectibles and things that are old lend so much more character and interest to a room."

Get the look

Barn door paint color, Wild Raison by Behr (#S-G-700), available at Home Depot

Sliding barn doors, made by Access Custom Garage Doors in Sorrento Valley

Camelback sofa, available at Restoration Hardware in Westfield UTC

Repurposed wood for wine room table, available at Vintage Timberworks in Temecula

The universal gooseneck light, available at

Exterior and interior sconces and the two-tiered chandeliers were built by Gibson & Gibson Antique Lighting.

John and Bonnie Manion