At Home With Rio Sabadicci & Family
Published February 10, 2012
Trying to round up the Sabadicci family — Rio, Marie, three kids, and two dogs — for a photo shoot by their Rancho Santa Fe swimming pool is like herding cats. There is lots of laughter as everyone tries to corral the dogs — Spirit and Karma — bribing them with biscuits to sit for the photographer. (He finally gets the shots, after nearly falling into the pool.)
Sabadicci, an electrical engineer who worked at General Electrics Space Systems Division in Valley Forge, and later as a software development manager, is also a born inventor. In 2006, he came up with the Vinturi wine aerator, an ingenious device that provides a quick way to let wine breathe without decanting it. After a mention on the online gadget guide Gizmoto, Sabadicci sold $7,000 worth of his aerators in one week, packing them up himself in his former home in Carlsbad. Since then, oenophiles have snapped up millions more, making the Vinturi a bestseller. It is available at wineries and retailers, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Brookstone, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Sur la Table, and Williams-Sonoma, among others. In January, the company moved into a new 66,000-square-foot headquarters in Carlsbad, which houses a warehouse and offices.
About two years ago, the Sabadicci family needed some breathing room of its own, moving to a two-acre estate in Rancho La Cima, an 8,800-square-foot-showplace originally owned and designed by Michael Kreiss, of the Kreiss furniture family, with architect Fleetwood Joiner. Rocker Tom DeLonge and his designer wife Jennifer were subsequent owners. “I saw this house and I fell in love,” recalls Sabadicci after looking at ten houses one Saturday with real estate agent Michael Citrin. The house has a dramatic reflecting pool at the entrance, an expansive living room with a pool table and a baby grand piano, and a multi-level, travertine terrace that includes a pool, two fireplaces, and couches for lounging, one of the family’s favorite spots. The property has plenty of rooms for Sabadicci’s passions: music, which he listens to in a soundproof room with leather couches and state-of-the art equipment, and a collection of luxury vehicles that includes a black Maserati and Lamborghini, a red Ferrari, and a Benelli motorcycle. Marie has a white Aston Martin Vantage convertible. “All this does not matter to me,” says Marie as she surveys the collection. “My gold is my family and my children.” Self-described homebodies, the couple’s lives revolve around 15-year-old Nick, a sophomore at the Bishop’s School; 13-year-old Ian and 11-year-old Victoria, students at Rancho Santa Fe School, all of whom play sports and musical instruments.
Blonde, blue-eyed Marie grew up in a small town in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, and speaks with a charming lilt. Rio, born in India to an Indian mother and Italian father, later moved to Pennsylvania with his family and has a distinct “Philly” accent. In appearance and temperament, they are opposites who obviously attract. They met in 1988 at a Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania bar. Sabadicci, who was already CEO of his own company, had just finished a marketing midterm at Wharton Business School. Marie, a 21-year-old nursing student and competitive Irish dancer, was visiting relatives in the States. “When I saw her, something just clicked,” he recalls. “I wouldn’t call it love at first sight, but I’d call it comfortable at first sight.” Adds Marie: “I thought he was crazy, but I loved his mind.” They talked for six months before they actually had a date. Marie, who had always planned to return to Ireland, never did. Two years later, they were married. “We had three weddings.” says Sabadicci, “a state wedding, a Catholic wedding, and an Indian wedding.” Soon, they packed all they had in a U-Haul and headed to California, not to seek their fortune, but because the weather was better. Sabadicci noticed he got headaches in Philadelphia when it rained. He called up a meteorologist who told him he was sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Where’s a better place to live?” he asked. “San Diego” was the answer.
Sabadicci, who founded Insider Software, writing computer code used to manage fonts for Mac computers, eventually began looking for a new venture. One night he was drinking wine with a friend who had poured the bottler into a decanter. “I couldn’t believe how much better each glass tasted than the one before,” he said. “What started out as thin and OK became rich and creamy and delicious. You almost couldn’t believe it was the same wine.” The wheels began to turn. Sabadicci, a Scotch drinker, knew little about wine at the time. But he realized that exposing wine to air — letting it breathe — made it taste better. The challenge was how to aerate it without decanting, a process that is time-consuming and inconvenient. After several tries, he was ready to give up until he and his team hit upon the Vinturi aerator, a device you hold over a glass and pour the wine through. It draws in and mixes air for the right amount of time, allowing the wine to breathe instantly. Initially for red wine, there are also Vinturi aerators on the market for white wines and spirits. (He is especially fond of cognac.)
With three more wine-related products now in development, Sabadicci (who also wants to race cars and fly airplanes) isn’t slowing down. Says he: “There’s always a better way.”Andrea Naversen