Maria Manetti Farrow
The name has a special ring to it, rolling off my tongue like a melody. And that is who she is. My friend, Maria; a melody, sensual, lilting, full of music.
I first met Maria in St. Barts many years ago and we became instant friends. As we walked the beach together, she told me about her life. She brought Gucci to the United States in the early 80’s, working 24/7 for so many years to build the Gucci brand! Because of her incredible style and marketing abilities her hard work paid off.
Today, she is a patron of the arts and travels the world. She built a phenomenal home on 60 acres in Oakville, California in Napa and named it Ville Mille Rose, because she has roses growing everywhere on her property. This estate is the essence of Italy, where she was born and raised. There are vineyards on all sides, flowers and fruit tress, lavender, and sunflowers wherever you look.
I am so lucky to have had the privilege to stay with Maria in August for the last several years. Every time I’ve gone out to visit her it’s been at the height of the season in the beautiful Napa Valley.
Maria loves to entertain! The first time I was invited to her home, she had a lunch on the lawn for me with Chef Gary Danko and some of her other dear friends. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the surroundings. Everything was picked fresh from her garden: the tomatoes, peaches, fresh herbs. Truly, a heavenly place for a foodie like me!
Last summer, I stayed with her for 3 days and every morning we walked in her vineyards and picked ripe peaches and plums from her trees as we caught up on each other’s our lives.
Maria is a connector and loves to bring her friends together. She never stops. She hardly sleeps and is constantly in motion. We walk in the morning and have chicken soup for breakfast…I love this ritual! Loi, her trusted Vietnamese housekeeper and chef, makes it fresh with all the vegetables from her garden and organic chicken.
Being the connector the she is, Maria entertains every weekend. She is meticulous about planning her menu with Loi and is involved with every detail. She does the table seating concentrating on where everyone will sit and then she writes our names on leaves with a gold pen.
What a brilliant and beautiful touch! She picks roses from her garden and throws the leaves on the table–so very Maria! Don’t you love when you stay at somebody’s home and they inspire you with new ideas for your own entertaining?
She makes a classic Bellini with white peach juice from her own peach trees and prosecco. She peels the peaches and then puts vitamin C powder and lemon juice on them to preserve them and she freezes them. Then she purees them in a blender and tops with the prosecco. This was the cold, refreshing, bubbly, cocktail that she served on a hot summer day in Napa.
This lunch was to celebrate her very close friend and composer, Daniel Brewbaker, who composed a piece that was being played at the Music in the Vineyard Festival. Daniel had lived with Maria for 4 years and during lunch, he toasted her with a beautiful poem. Then her friend, Margrit Mondavi, spoke of the special friendship they have shared for 30 years.
I was honored and privileged to be at this extraordinary lunch with Maria and her closest friends to experience the hospitality, good cheer and ambiance of her home as well as the magnificent food and Napa Valley wine. Bill Harlan from Harlan Estate was another noteworthy guest at this lunch.
The late Robert Mondavi said that Maria is the bubble in the champagne of life! I agree! Perfectly said. Here’s to Maria!