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Going separate ways

Michael Sebastiani, 33, is heading a new winery called Generations of Sonoma, and is involved in Sonoma community events such as a children's bike camp he's organizing for the spring, Vicki Sebastiani said.

Sam is not on speaking terms with Jon and Michael, and the rift has perplexed and saddened family friends.

"It's a tragedy because, from my perspective, it's very very difficult to understand," said Doug Offenbacher, a Sonoma businessman and longtime family friend. "It's very difficult to accept and it's very difficult to do anything about."

Offenbacher, who has known Sam for a quarter century and likes and respects both Jon and Michael, says the frayed relationships between father and son, and brother and sister, in Viansa's story contain parallels to the rivalries at Sebastiani Vineyards that gave rise to Viansa in the first place.

"I just see it as a classic case of two generations with different styles of approaching the business and approaching the future," he said.

Vicki now lives with her youngest children, Elizabeth, 22, and Christopher, 21, in the farmhouse she and Sam built in Schellville after 11 years living in a trailer on the winery property. The divorce became final last spring. She says she now has "exciting plans" for a wine industry-related venture.

Sam Sebastiani, 65, splits his time between his home in Sonoma and the 2,000-acre ranch in Nebraska that he purchased as a sanctuary from the Wine Country spotlight. He lives with girlfriend Robin Chretien, the former special- events coordinator at Viansa.

He said he is relieved to have the Viansa chapter of his life behind him, and to be able to focus on converting much of his Nebraska land to waterfowl habitat. From behind the wheel of the tractor he bought after the Viansa sale closed, Sebastiani finds rewards in sculpting his land free from the political and bureaucratic obstacles he encountered when he built the 90 acres of wetlands around Viansa.

But he is also troubled knowing the atmosphere at Viansa is sure to change under its new corporate ownership.

"Viansa is not totally a business," he said. "What I tried to create there was a family atmosphere, something people would be happy to be a part of."


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