The Tuscan-inspired villa tucked into an oak-studded ranch outside Sonoma is stunning by any measure, beginning with the $35million price - a Sonoma County record if the estate sells for that sum.
You won't find Villa Shanel in conventional real estate listings. Serious buyers can look through a hardcover coffee table book that highlights the two-bedroom home - stretching out over 11,605 square feet - and 362 acres of woodlands and landscaped grounds. Others can review the property on luxury-home Web sites.
The ranch's seven miles of private trails boast views of the Sonoma Valley and San Francisco Bay. The estate also features a guesthouse, stables and covered riding arena, a pool and large cabana, 10 acres of vineyards, a lake and a staff of seven who can even operate the estate's firetruck.
"This is the cream of the crop. It's as nice a piece of property as I've ever seen up there," said Sandy Walker, a San Francisco architect and designer of the luxurious Auberge du Soleil resort and many Bay Area showpiece homes.
Walker designed Villa Shanel, which he considers among his best in four decades of work, at the request of Gary Shansby, who made his fortune in the health and nutrition products industry, and his wife, O.J. Shansby.
The price tag - more than three times the record amount paid for a Sonoma County estate - offers the combination of a signature home and expansive acreage. Few comparable properties can be found on the market in Northern California. You can get a larger home on less land in Tiburon for the same price or add a few million dollars for estates in Pebble Beach or Palo Alto.
"The extraordinary quality of this property is the privacy and security and the amount of undisturbed land that you have," said listing agent Betty Brachman of San Francisco.
"So a lot of it is having your own private oasis," she said. "And then when you start adding the buildings and the maturity of landscaping, that's what makes it truly unique."
The most expensive homes in Sonoma County run in the $10 million neighborhood these days. The record sale was $10.5 million for a Kawana Springs Road home on 110 acres in Santa Rosa in 1999, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate market-research firm.
"I haven't seen anything that touches this in Northern California," said Dave Carpenter, a Coldwell Banker agent specializing in million-dollar homes in the region.
Villa Shanel is in the company of residential properties in pricey places such as Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, Fla., and Long Island, N.Y., with signature names, not just addresses, attached to their deeds.
Villa Shanel ranked in the top 20 in this week's listings at luxuryrealestate.com, a leading Web site for high-priced homes.
"You don't see very many properties in that price range, even for luxury homes," said Bellini Lacey of Luxury Real Estate, based in Seattle.
Pricing and marketing high-priced homes can be challenging, and these properties often sell more slowly.
Setting the price is an art, said Carpenter, who has the listing for Redwood Grove, a historic Julia Morgan-designed mansion in southern Humboldt County on the market for $8.9 million.
"It's kind of like a piece of art. It's discretionary how you price it," he said. "Your buyer pool is really small and you have to market it everywhere. They're tough to sell."