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James Tarmy

A Huge Sonoma Mansion Hits the Market for $15 Million

For much of his life, Don Sebastiani has lived on a single hill in the town of Sonoma, California. His family has deep roots in the area—literally and metaphorically: He’s the grandchild of Samuele Sebastiani, founder of the famed producer Sebastiani Vineyards.

After leaving his childhood home, then working his way back through a series of houses he describes as “starter homes” Sebastiani moved onto a lot adjacent to the one where he grew up, first building what he describes as “a house you have kids in,” then replacing it with a house he says “you have grandkids in.”

Now many of those grandchildren are mostly grown, so Sebastiani and his wife Nancy, twice empty nesters, are putting the house on the market, listing it for $15 million with their nephew’s wife, Caroline Sebastiani of  Sotheby’s International Realty – Wine Country Sonoma Brokerage. “There’s an extent to which right now there’s a little bit—or maybe a lot of bit—too much house,” says Sebastiani of the approximately 12,000-square-foot home. (And that doesn’t include 1,000-square-foot basement.) “For the next move, it will certainly be down in size.”

Building a House for Family

Sebastiani, who’s co-founded several beverage businesses, including Don Sebastiani & Sons, says his father gifted him the 4.5-acre parcel 50 years ago.

First on that parcel came the house Sebastiani and his wife built in the 1980s, where they raised their own children. When the couple decided to take that structure down and build their grandparents edition, construction started slowly. “We moved out in 2006, and started doing things very gradually,” he says. “Deconstruction of the previous house was only part of it—we also did excavation underground and put in some underground chambers.” In 2008, when the market crashed, construction took a breather. “I had to call our designers and say hit the brakes, for obvious reasons,” Sebastiani says. He and his wife only moved into the home in 2011.

Because they’d designed the house to host large family gatherings—“on a Sunday night, if we had all 10 grandkids with us, it would be 18 people with no guests,” he says—but not to permanently house said family, the house has a comparatively restrained four bedrooms.

Instead, most of the structure is devoted to entertaining. There’s a library with soaring ceilings and bookshelves, what Sebastiani calls a “very formal dining room” with satin walls, in an aesthetic he says is “almost preposterously Parisian,” and a massive kitchen which “feels and acts a little bit like an institutional kitchen, by design,” he says. (All those grandchildren have to eat, after all.) Plus, there are six full baths and three half baths. 

Entertainment Options

Sebastiani says his family “isn’t the cocktail party set,” but because he’s in the beverage business, a certain volume of cocktails and wine tastings have been held in the home on a regular basis. “We might do a tasting with folks who are sommeliers or wine writers or growers, and lunch might be upstairs in the dining room in a more formal setting,” he says.

He often takes visitors into one of two rooms in the cellar devoted to entertainment: the “green room,” which is long and narrow with a long thin dining table—“very much a guys’ room, where you can have a cigar, or a wine tasting for 15 or 20 people”—or a smaller red room which has a round dining table.

For all his involvement in wine and beverages, Sebastiani says he keeps comparatively few bottles at home. “I’m not the guy with the 20,000-bottle wine cellar to show off at any given time,” he says. “I have a couple of cases around, that’s all. I’m a wine consumer even more than a wine business person.”

Outside, the property has been carefully landscaped. There’s a large pool on a massive terrace, and the grounds are filled with deciduous trees. “I planted trees like crazy,” Sebastiani says. “You’ll see leafy broadleaf trees that give off a lot of color in the spring and shade in the summer.” Driving onto his land, he says, “you might think you’re somewhere in Michigan.” The property also contains an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

Even though he’s spent most of his life here, “there’s no nostalgia” about leaving, Sebastiani says. “I’ve moved off the hill many times before, and if we do sell we’ll be moving a few blocks away.”

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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