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home of the week

Allan Liang Photography

5290 Olund Rd., Abbotsford, B.C.

Asking price: $9,950,000

Taxes: $5,992 (2022)

Lot size: 9 acres

Agents: Paul Hague and Christa Elizabeth Frosch, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

The backstory

Sometimes in some places the universe seems to conspire to make it so that things just work out.

Though it didn’t feel like that 10 years ago when Allison and David Zimmerman got their first annual tax bill for their Mount Lehman home: they were almost knocked flat.

“We had just settled in, and we were like, ‘Oh no, we gotta move back to our old house,’” Mr. Zimmerman said. “Here the taxes are land and improvements on the land, so it was about $14,000 annually,” Mrs. Zimmerman said.

Ironically, they had wanted to buy the acreage for lifestyle and practical reasons: there was a horse barn on site and they were hoping to save on boarding fees for their 12-year-old daughter’s increasing needs as she pursued equestrian sports and acquired new mounts.

Mount Lehman is just north of Abbotsford at the southwest edge of the Fraser Valley – one of Canada’s most fertile farming spots – and they knew taxes on agricultural land could be a little more reasonable. At the time one neighbour had a vineyard and the Zimmermans were avid Okanagan wine tourists themselves, so they reached out to a wine business contact to see what their options might be.

“We started off with two acres, and planted the front field … originally the property had a lot of trees, and then in a big wind storm they all blew over, so we planted the side field,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “One year we had a big freeze over, and huge cherry and plum trees on a big piece of land, they just all broke and split open, fell over and a whole piece of land was left.”

It takes time for grapevines to mature, but when they reached about four years old the vineyard contact who had pledged to buy their grapes had dropped out of the deal. “We have all these grapes, what do we do with them? One of our friends introduced us to a wine consultant who said ‘Why don’t you get a winery?’” Mr. Zimmerman said.

“We kind of thought about it, and I think we both said yes at the same time,” Mrs. Zimmerman said.

Their Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery now produces about 2,000 cases a year, has won some competitions for Pacific-Northwest wines and they play host to visitors all year round at the chapel-style tasting room they built, as well as a larger recently added barrel room tasting facility (with furnishings and decorative embellishments made from old-growth lumber salvaged from a 100-year-old Fraser Valley barn teardown). Mr. Zimmerman’s working background is in mining and Mrs. Zimmerman’s was in retail and real estate but now both of them spend about 90 per cent of their efforts hosting tastings and running the winery.

And yes, their annual tax bill is now a third of what it was before they went down this road.

“Anything perceived as a road block ended up being a good thing,” said Mr. Zimmerman. “I’d get frustrated, but it all worked out the way it was supposed to.”

The house today

  • Home of the Week, 5290 Olund Road, Abbotsford, BCAllan Liang Photography

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The Zimmerman’s say the builder of their home was a local property developer who built it for himself and a large family in 1992. The five-bedroom nearly 6,000-square foot ranch-style home was certainly built big, but it was also built to last with some commercial-grade building techniques.

There are two driveways: one that goes straight back to the barn, equestrian and winery facilities at the rear of the lot, and one that winds through the vineyard to the main house. A large oval-shaped paved courtyard in front of the three-car garage offers lots of visitor parking.

The double front doors are framed by gables and a rounded portico transitions into the house to the vaulted foyer ceiling with an angelic fresco which was painted by a local artist.

Mrs. Zimmerman calls the interior style “Tuscan” with its rich oranges, arches, trayed ceilings and pillars.

To the left of the front foyer is a step-down living room and library, to the right is a long formal dining room with a vaulted ceiling.

Off the dining room is a butler’s pantry and stairway leading upstairs, past which is a kitchen filled with custom millwork cabinets in aqua/teal shades. Even with the triangular central island and high-end appliances it’s very much a farm kitchen with windows all across the back wall.

The second floor has a large loft-style family space dominated by a pool table off of which the bedrooms branch out. The primary bedroom features a fireplace and a large ensuite bathroom.

The basement level is rarely used by the family, the house is on terraced land so the bottom floor walks out and is set up as a separate apartment at the moment.

The commercial operation out back is not your typical barn. The main building is more like a hanger with about 14,000 square feet of internal space. There’s an ice surface – about a quarter the size of a hockey rink and unused by the Zimmermans – so the building is well insulated. The Zimmermans upgraded the stables and converted one half of the space into their wine operation. There’s also a full apartment on the back of the building available for rent. About a third of the back lot is occupied by the arena, pens and school enclosures for training with horses. There’s another field of grapes back behind the barn as well.

Even if you’re not dedicated to the equestrian competition enough that you need a half-dozen horses or more, the house is just down the street from Douglas Taylor Park, off which you can ride a leg of the Trans Canada Trail.

Best feature

The tasting cottage has a large outdoor patio.Allan Liang Photography

The winery comes with the property. Sometimes in vineyard sales the wine equipment isn’t part of the deal, but in this case anyone who wants to take over the Seaside operation is welcome to it. Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman are planning to retire to Mexico, and other than hanging on to the existing stock of wine the rest is up for grabs.

The tasting cottage is also a charming structure: Separated from the main house by one of the vine fields, it has a large outdoor patio (barrel tables, of course) and really looks like a chapel complete with steeple and bell tower.

The interior is the same Tuscan/Canadiana style of the main house, but with more heavy iron-work, treated concrete floor and rich leather furnishings. Whether you keep the wine business it’s a heck of a coachhouse/guesthouse.

Allan Liang Photography

Allan Liang Photography

In addition to Seaside’s cabernet sauvignon’s, pinot gris, petite milo and syrah wines (they even sell a canned sparkling wine made with their grapes) the site is picturesque enough to have served as the set for more than one Hallmark movie.

One movie any interested buyer should check out is Christmas on the Vine, which shot some scenes on the Zimmerman property. Not only is the romantic lead (Jon Cor) Canadian, but the IMDB description for the 2020 movie is pure Hallmark: “A young marketing executive is assigned to help a struggling family-owned winery in a town that has lost its Christmas spirit due to a large wine conglomerate.”