In 1985, Italian-born Maria Manetti and her American husband bought a 60-acre plot of land in Oakville containing a nondescript ranch house and 45 acres of vineyards. With a high-pressure job directing the Gucci franchise in the U.S., she needed a place to unwind—and Napa reminded her of the countryside around her native Florence. But life at her retreat was seldom restful; her husband, an architect, was constantly planning and supervising improvements. In 1992, the couple divorced. Manetti kept the property but razed the house to build a proper Tuscan villa, enlisting her friend, architect Dante Bini. The result of their collaboration was Villa Mille Rose, a 7,500-square-foot, eight-room mansion, which she later accented with striking contemporary sculptures. In 2012, Manetti married Jan Shrem, a former international book publisher and owner of the fabled Clos Pegase winery in nearby Calistoga.
In November, the couple celebrated the opening of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC-Davis. In addition to helping fund the construction of the new $30 million building designed by the rising-star New York firm SO-IL, the pair donated much of their impressive collection of contemporary art to the museum, with the intention of helping the school regain its mid-century status as a leading incubator of the American avant-garde.