• 16ha home/vineyard property
• On Munros Rd, Clevedon
• 45km from Auckland CBD, 30km from airport
• 5-bedroom home over two levels
• 6-car garage flanked by piazza
• bespoke Italian joinery
• 12-seater chestnut table
The granite kitchen bench weighs nearly a tonne, the joinery was custom-made by Italian artisans and a 'lucky' imported seventeenth century hand-carved door is the library entrance way.
Newstalk ZB morning talk host Leighton Smith is selling his Clevedon Hills Estate with these unusual features. He describes the property as "the most Italian home anywhere in New Zealand, a little bit of Italy here", with its own vineyard, stands of native bush and vast 640sq m home, designed by Italian architect Avio Mattiozzi.
"He called it a casolari or a working farm. It's Tuscan-style, modelled on the Villa Gamberaia outside Florence. It's been my home for nearly 20 years. I love it. I don't want to sell it but it's time to make changes," Smith said.
Southebys Realty says: "The house itself is a testament to the owner who was involved in every step of the creation. No detail is missed right from the 17th century Italian door to the library through to the hand crafted stone mantelpiece in the living room."
"I love the classic lines of Italian architecture and believed that style would suit the landscape in Clevedon. I was madly in love with Italy and still am. I bought the bare land in 1997 when it was a dairy farm," he said, telling how he then planted a large grove of Australian blackwood on a hillside "to stop the gorse. The only way to get rid of that hateful stuff is to plant it out. There have been more than 3000 trees planted."
Earthworks created the flat hilltop house building site, while the sloping valley below was planted in vines: today Arneis, Pinot Noir and Syrah although his autobiography Leighton Smith Beyond the Microphone tells of initially planting other varieties which did not flourish.
Wine business Vin Alto describes how the site is ideal for grapes: "It is situated in a micro-climate that traps the heat, between hills to the east and native bush to the west. The first vines were planted in August 1998. While nine varieties found their way into forty rows, some were purely on an experimental basis."
"Tuscany in Clevedon" is how Smith described the property, displaying a sheltered piazza or courtyard, imported Italian terracotta floor and roof tiles.
Father and son Paolo and Constantino Matulli of Campi Bisenzio near Florence were the artisans who made all the joinery with their cousin, including kitchen cabinets, doors and window shutters, Smith said. They also flew here from Italy to undertake all the installation "and caused an incident when they were cooking in the kitchen", Smith recalled.
A bespoke chestnut dining table seating 12 is up for negotiation, Smith says.
Smith's wife, Carolyn Leaney, said selling was hard: "But it's time for the next step."
As for that seventeenth century door, Smith told how a lucky coincidence - and a New Zealand connection - resulted in him getting it.
"The artisans were working on a villa which was being turned into a hotel in Florence. On a visit there, we met the manager of this hotel who had always wanted to come to New Zealand to ride his motorbike around the South Island. He gifted me the door to his office and the artisans refurbished it to fit this house."
As the Italians would say, bellissimo!