Casa Sebastiani: Under the Sonoma Sun

A vineyard in California’s Wine Country

In 1936, August Sebastiani married Sylvia, his childhood sweetie, thus beginning a long and perfect union of labor and love. August took over the family vineyard, which his father Samuele had started in 1904, and soon became one of America’s most skilled and innovative winemakers. Sylvia, the daughter of immigrant farmers, achieved her notoriety in the kitchen, delighting family and friends with her homey Italian cooking. In 1947, "Sonoma’s first family" built a new home, styled after a Tuscan villa, located just a short stroll up the hill from their acclaimed winery.

Casa Sebastiani

Today, Casa Sebastiani is available as a rental property through BeautifulPlaces, a professional management company that handles rentals of privately owned wine country estates, villas and houses throughout the world.

After talking to the exceedingly helpful staff at Beautiful Places, we nabbed the Casa, which turned out to be the perfect answer to where we could all stay for our multi-generational, girls-only birthday celebration for our matriarch. Our collective "oooohs" when we first spied the gracious hand-hewn stone home oozing old-world charm, with numerous terraces, archways, outdoor dining areas, and a sun-drenched swimming pool and patio that overlooked "our" vineyards, lavender fields, citrus trees, olive groves and flowering plants, quickly turned into "ahhhhs" once we walked inside.

Cozy living room

Although the sprawling home has six bedrooms and five bathrooms (filled with fluffy towels and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries), an enticing kitchen stocked with every conceivable cooking utensil, four flat screen TV’s, and even a grand piano, it still managed to feel extremely comfy-cozy. Minutes after dibsing our bedrooms, we grabbed our books, wine and sunscreen and made ourselves right at home round the pool.

Overlooking our vines

Our Top Seven Faves at Casa Sebastiani:

1. Sitting outside on the deck, sipping a glass of zin (Sebastiani, natch!) watching the sunset over our vines.

2. Cooking up a big pot of pasta topped with farm-fresh herbs and heirloom tomatoes (scored for $1.00/lb at the local farmer’s market) which we ate in the family room, gathered around the big screen TV, catching up on Season Two of "Breaking Bad", sipping a glass of their fine cabernet. No worries about who had to be designated driver.

3. Shooting an endless, slightly inebriated "girls game" of pool in the nifty downstairs rec-room. Every square inch of wall space here is covered with zillions of Sebastiani family photos. (August was quite the cutie.)

4. Touring "our" world-renowned winery (we never got tired of claiming our Sebastiani status). Check out the intricately hand-carved oak barrels, the spectacular painted mural of Sonoma, Samuele’s original wine making equipment, and the Sylvia Sebastiani kitchen, where you can buy a reprinted copy of her cookbook, "Mangiamo, Let’s Eat."

Relaxing poolside

5. Imagining that we were miles from civilization ensconced in a private villa in some remote Italian village, while loving the fact that it was less then an hour drive back home to San Francisco.

6.That the thoughtful elves from Beautiful Places had not only left us a notebook filled with excellent suggestions of what to see and do in Sonoma (as well as passes for complimentary tastings at various wineries) but they even supplied us with all the fixings of a birthday party for mom, including a scrumptious chocolate cake (complete with candles) and champagne.

7. Feeling such a warm connection to the Sebastiani’s that we could almost hear Sylvia urging us to "mangia, mangia."
Beautiful Places also left a brochure with pictures of some of their other exclusive properties, which provided many hours of heated debate trying to decide on next year’s birthday celebration spot. We’re still torn between a breathtaking 5-star Chateau in Provence, an eight-bedroom Abbey in Tuscany, or Casa Luna Mar, an expansive 10,000 square-foot private oceanfront sanctuary in Punta Mita, Mexico.

I do know that I’m going to put the call out to some of my gal-pals and see who wants to join me in return trip to Sonoma, where we’ll stay at the ultra-modern California Dreamin’ house designed by renowned architect Conrad Sanchez. This "top of the world" location has an incredible panoramic view that takes in the Sonoma Valley, Mt.Tamalpais, Sausalito, clear to San Francisco. If that doesn’t get them, the 20 acres of land, 5,000 square feet of designer living space, the infinity pool and spa, the separate guesthouse, and most definitely, the private wine cave carved into the hillside should seal the deal. Check out BeautifulPlaces for more dream dwellings and destinations.

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