s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

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."

Gary and O.J. Shansby built their dream home in the hills west of Sonoma and are reluctantly selling it a decade later.

Gary Shansby built Shaklee Corp., direct marketer of health and wellness products, into a Fortune 500 company. Today he is managing director and chairman of TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity investment firm in San Francisco.

The couple, well known on the San Francisco social scene, are traveling in Europe and declined an interview request. Gary Shansby told the Wall Street Journal they plan to simplify their lives and buy a home in Mexico. The paper also reported Shansby has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"They're sorry they're selling it. I'm sorry they're selling it. But people's lives change," Walker said. "When I talked with them they said they were in no rush. They will wait for the right person to come along."

Nationally, the property has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today articles and is set to appear as a featured estate in an upcoming Architectural Digest. Villa Shanel also is advertised on several Web sites devoted to multimillion-dollar homes. Brachman also has put together a CD and a Web site, in addition to the coffee table book.

The property will be shown to prospective buyers beginning in a week or two. A banker will screen offers and make recommendations to the Shansbys, said Brachman, owner of The Brachman Group, a San Francisco corporation and agent within Sotheby's International Realty.

From home site and design to the planting of gardens and trees, Villa Shanel complements a setting that is wild and scenic.

"You really get a sense of what California used to look like all over the place," Walker said of the rolling hills, wildflowers and oak woodlands, coyotes and other wildlife found on the property.

Two roads lead up to the home from separate entrances. Elevations on the property range from 400 feet to 1,000 feet.

The Tuscan farmhouse is set into one of the hillsides on the property. A wandering layout lowers the profile and seeks to make the home appear as if it had long been there and was added onto over time.

Stucco walls are painted in varying shades of beige to help age the home's appearance. Adding to the older look are 800-year-old roof tiles from different homes in Italy and 200-year-old wood beams in the ceilings taken from the Nevada barn of a Pony Express rider.

The main residence has two bedrooms, with much of the interior space for dining and living rooms, library, office, exercise room and wine cellar.

A staircase bordered by mature poplar trees leads down to the pool. A wooded path connects the guesthouse and pool, which features an outdoor spa built of rock.

The property is set up for parties and benefits on a sizable scale.

Even the stables and riding ring, with stucco, tile and rich wood features, are large and nice enough for entertaining. In August, the Shansbys threw a hoedown at the stables for guests including former Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife, Gayle, U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach and his wife, Gretchen, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, and California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George and his wife, Barbara.

A great part of the property's value is in the woodlands and landscaping, as well as 10 acres planted in syrah grapes.

Walker worked closely with Berkeley landscape architect Mai Arbegast, including planting hundreds of trees, among them Japanese maple, redwood and olive, before construction began.

Lawns are kept to a minimum, around the pool and home. Gardens, some tucked in terraces, yield abundant cut flowers including roses, and vegetables and herbs for the house. A small fruit tree orchard and blackberry and raspberry bushes add to the natural surroundings.

Noting the Shansbys often describe Villa Shanel much like living in a park, Brachman said they want more than the right price. Given the property's breadth and beauty, the Shansbys want to limit additional development on the ranch as a condition of the sale.

"It's more of a stewardship," she said. "This is a phenomenal creation."