“This quintessential California estate is now ready for the next chapter in its journey,” proclaims Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Beverly Hills. The luxury real estate veteran is attentively guiding us past the gated entrance to Sycamore Valley Ranch, formerly known as Neverland Ranch, which she has listed for $67 million.
“It is both residence and retreat,” she suggests. And as we meander through the sprawling property’s manicured lawns, gardens, ponds and streams, majestic sycamores (hence its new namesake) and twisted oak trees with a rolling blanket of green spread out before us on more than 2,700 acres on three parcels, it is hard to argue with her description. The pastoral vistas are nothing short of breathtaking.
Sycamore Valley Ranch, Rey tells me, borders on historic family ranches and the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California’s most unique wine-growing region offering “a rare lifestyle of relaxation and entertaining on a grand scale.” She stresses the fact that it is located just five miles from the “charming town” of Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, and “it is a pleasant 30-minute drive to Santa Barbara, where, in addition to world-class dining and shopping, Santa Barbara Municipal Airport offers service by major airlines and private aviation services.”
As we follow the curving road, we eventually find the main residence. The approximately 12,598 square foot French-Normandy style main residence was designed by internationally renowned and award-winning architect Robert Altevers of Altevers Associates, “as the personal home of builder William Bone,” Rey shares as we cross the threshold.
It balances a fantasy-like presence with a sense of history — as if it has been here on this land for ages. I am immediately taken with the level of detail and craftsmanship inside. Exposed timber beams, handsome brick and stonework, 18th century French oak parquet flooring, which Rey tells me is “from two chateaus in France.” There are five fireplaces throughout. I am struck by the welcoming sense of warmth and comfort I feel. Five bedrooms offer plenty of privacy and space.
The first floor master wing, for example, encompasses a private loft and two master baths, two walk-in cedar-lined closets and a private outdoor garden.
We eventually make our way outside. Again, the surrounding beauty of this California wine country paradise inspires awe. There is a lovely lake with a waterfall and swans, boat stops and beach.
I can see the level of hospitality that can be achieved here, as we pass an expansive covered outdoor entertaining area with a copper Santa Maria-style wood-burning barbecue and a full kitchen.
Nearby is a 14-foot deep lagoon-style pool with a high dive and a sunken, lighted tennis court with a viewing area.
The approximately 3,655 square foot tennis pavilion/pool house has a loft, fireplace, laundry, dual bathrooms and an underground wine cellar/tasting area with a wet bar. We wander further and arrive at a separate staff annex above the five-bay garage, which houses a ground-level estate manager’s office, gas fireplace and bathroom.
About 150 feet from the main house, we find the primary guest house, which consists of four units, each with a separate entrance, HVAC and full bath. The hill house — “which could be used as guest or staff quarters,” suggest Rey — boasts some of the most stunning views on the property and a unique piece of history, according to Rey: “It was used by William Bone during the construction.”
It is usual at this stage of a property tour to assume it is coming to an end. We have seen and experienced so much, after all. However, I discover this is not the case. More place of wonder await.
After much walking, we arrive at a separate building of approximately 5,500 square feet. This is where the property’s movie theater and dance studio reside.
The 50-seat inclined cinema “has theatre-grade projection and sound system, private viewing balcony, and a stage with trap doors,” says Rey. There is an approximately 1,900 square foot private fire station and administration building with three restrooms and a shower.
The large red barn, “built originally for Clydesdales,” says Rey, offers an ideal setting for extensive horse facilities. A ranch house, adjacent to the stables, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, laundry, full kitchen and woodburning fireplace.
Rey, however, saves the most famous landmarks at Sycamore Valley Ranch for last: the Disney-style train station, which has a kitchenette, loft and two fireplaces.
“This property is nothing short of magical,” concludes Rey, reading the lost-for-words expression on my face. “Everything has been built with magnificent quality and with comfortable luxury in mind. It’s a singular residence — which could never, ever be duplicated today — offering an extraordinary California ranch and naturalist lifestyle.”