It only takes an old photograph or two to get Sandra MacIver talking about her extraordinary New Orleans childhood. In her office at the Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma, MacIver is sitting with a picture book of Longue Vue, her grandparents' magnificent New Orleans estate. She mentions a Life magazine article on American grande dames that featured her flamboyant grandmother, Edith Rosenwald Stern, heir to the Sears department store fortune, and recalls family parties attended by Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Pablo Casals and Jack Benny. And the time a young artist named Andy Warhol knocked on Longue Vue's door. He had met Mrs. Stern at a charity event the night before and wanted to interview her. "My grandmother hadn't a clue who he was," MacIver recalls. "She just wanted to know why all the food for the party had been served out of Campbell's Soup cans."
MacIver (pronounced mac-EE-ver) is currently working to ensure that her family's illustrious New Orleans home and history are tended every bit as carefully as the world-class bottles of Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc produced at the winery she founded 23 years ago. MacIver, who recently sold Matanzas Creek to Jess Jackson's Artisans & Estates group, works there now as a consultant. She explains, "Jess, who is an old friend, called one day and said, 'Name your price.' We did, and he said, 'Done.'"
With the sale of Matanzas Creek, MacIver is able to turn her attention more fully to Longue Vue and to transforming the 45-room Classical Revival-style mansion into an important public institution and philanthropy center. A key part of Longue Vue's $7 million, 10-year restoration plan is the renovation of eight acres of gardens designed in the 1930s by pioneering landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman (one of the creators of the New York Botanical Garden). MacIver feels that her grandmother would have approved. "More than anyone, my grandmother defined my identity," MacIver says. "Consciously or not, I've been guided by her philosophy, which holds that if you put your energy into doing quality work, interesting things happen."