Source: Maria Manetti Shrem
Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

How to Design a Perfect Napa Valley Getaway

Maria Manetti Shrem, art collector and philanthropist, created a romantic Italian getaway for herself in the heart of California wine country. Now a third husband lives there, too. Take a tour.

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. 

The Exterior
The Exterior

“I worked very closely with the architect Dante Bini, a family friend and neighbor, on the design of my Tuscan villa,” says Manetti Shrem. “When I first started collecting contemporary art in the early 2000’s, I bought that Anthony Gormley sculpture you can see on the right. Back then, I was new to this kind of art and what would work with a property of this scale, and as you see, the figure almost disappears.”

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Living Room
The Living Room

Manetti Shrem's taste is ornate but cozy.

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Facade
The Facade

“Dante also worked with me on the design of the loggia, pergola, reflecting pool, bridge, and walkway,” explains Manetti Shrem. “The pile of white stones on the left is another contemporary sculpture by Richard Long, called Georgia Granite Line, that I purchased in London.”

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

Wisteria
Wisteria

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Grounds
The Grounds

“When my ex-husband and I bought the property, the grounds were so ugly,” she recalls. “No vegetables, no fruit trees or flowers. Now they’ve been transformed. The formal gardens have boxwood hedges, potted sculptured rosemary, beautiful olive and cypress trees, and wisteria covering the pergola. It takes all Friday morning just to mow the grounds! In addition, we have 45 acres of cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay grapes that we sell to the local wineries, along with 460 Italian and Spanish olive trees. The Spanish trees are 70 years old. We make a boutique olive oil that is used by the French Laundry and other top local restaurants. We also have an organic garden with 100 fruit trees. We grow so many peaches that I freeze them so I can drink Bellinis year-round. You see I’m a farmer, as well as an art collector. Let me tell you, it’s a lot of sweat and tears!”

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Kitchen
The Kitchen

“I love my kitchen because I love to cook!” exclaims Manetti Shrem. “And the view from the kitchen gives me great joy and peace of mind. I see the beautiful garden, with all different shades of green given by the olive and cypress trees, the oleander bushes and boxwood-trimmed edges. Plus, shocking pink roses and petunias.”

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

Another View of the Grounds
Another View of the Grounds

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Den
The Den

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

The Kitchen
The Kitchen

“Because I like cooking and entertaining friends on the weekends, I made the kitchen very large. It’s 750 square feet and has a sitting area with a Tuscan fireplace, where I roast chickens,” she explains. “The design is taken from the oven on the Frescobaldi estate in Tuscany. It is an authentic Tuscan oven with plenty of wood space. We seldom entertain in the dining room—most often outside in the garden, or in the kitchen in the winter time.

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem

'Tongue'
'Tongue'

“When I bought this stainless steel sculpture, Tongue, by Not Vital in Belgium, I finally acquired a work that could hold its own with the property,” says Manetti Shrem.

Source: Maria Manetti Shrem