Tucked away in the middle of Marlborough vineyards or behind tall windbreak hedges are some stylish houses like Allan and Cathy Scott’s. Charmian Smith discovers the family home of one of Marlborough’s wine pioneers.
Opposite Allan Scott’s Twelve Trees restaurant and winery, hidden behind a large hedge is Allan and Cathy Scott’s large family home.
You approach through the vineyard then turn left along a drive flanked with plane trees, but intriguingly the house doesn’t come into view until you round another corner. Even then all you see is only a small part, a blank grey brick wall with a chimney on one side, an inviting pergola and neatly clipped low hedges leading to the front door in the centre, and garage and parking area on the other. At the far end of the blank wall – the billiard room and den are on the other side I learn later – are intriguing glimpses of more neatly clipped little hedges, another pergola and a profusion of white roses and agapanthus.
Back in the 1970s Allan Scott was one of a bunch of people setting out on a mission to grow grapes in Marlborough.
There was a real buzz that was probably about people recognising that we could make wine here and that it was of a high standard, he said.
He and Cathy, whose family had farmed in the region for generations, moved here in 1973 and he worked for Montana which was planting the region’s first vineyard.
The Scotts built their first house in the early 1970s, a modern, open plan home on their muller thurgau vineyard near Blenheim. However, they sold it in the early 1980s when they bought an eight hectare cherry orchard in Jackson’s Rd, next door to where Cloudy Bay was building its winery. They planted a sauvignon blanc vineyard and built their new family home there in 1985. In 1990 they started their own wine brand and built their own winery and cellar door across the road.
“Both Cathy and I love architecture and we love gardening and I guess we were a bit taken with the European style of housing – especially in the UK. We love classic lines and gables – they never really date,” Allan said.
Their architect was David Brocherie who is now based in Sydney. It took him out of his comfort zone to a certain extent but he was good to work with, Allan said.
Cathy loves the way the house flows from the formal end to the family space.
The formal part of the house includes a large lounge opening onto the garden with a library/den behind, and a billiard room off that. From the lounge you walk through the formal dining room to the open-plan living area and kitchen, then outside to an sitting and barbecue area with the pool beyond.
The rooms along this side of the house open on to the garden. The original French doors in the lounge and family room have been replaced with bifold doors which open completely to let in the light and air and views of the extensive garden.
Immediately outside is a parterre of formal box hedges interspersed with terracotta tiles and gravel paths and a profusion of white and pale apricot roses. Bright red geraniums in urns add a splash of colour and here and there are seats among the neatly clipped hedges.
The effect of the spacious lawns beyond the mass of roses and box hedges, with a woodland in the background, is stunning. Here and there are small sculptures and urns to intrigue or draw the eye.
On one side of the lawn a pergola leads to a tennis court and beyond is an informal pool with a central fountain which extends into the woodland. A few ducks enjoy the water and a line of ducklings zooms away behind their mother.
However, the heat and the wind have taken their toll, and the lawn is brown because of the summer drought. The irrigation hadn’t been working properly while they were on holiday, Cathy explains apologetically.
She designed the garden. “I like things neat and tidy, that’s why it’s a more formal garden,” she said.
“I love trees,” adds Allan – “I love chopping them down. Some of them are starting to get quite dangerous but we replaced some of them. There’s a gum tree to come out.”
All round the perimeter is the hedge which is essential in windy Marlborough, even though it blocks the view of the hills from the garden. However, they can be seen from the upstairs windows.
Even though it’s extensive, the garden feels secluded and private. The Scotts have never opened it to the public, they keep it for the family and their own enjoyment, Allan says.
The full facade of the house is seen to advantage from the lawn. Built of grey brick with gables, chimneys and the neatly clipped box hedges, it is reminiscent of an English country house.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to live in and has been a real family home, Cathy says.
“Everybody’s grown up here, it’s home to them. They still come here even now they are middle-aged. They still treat it like home even though they’ve all got their own homes.”