On our way to the winery, we stopped at this spot featuring an overlook and some hikes.
On my birthday, we invited the family and some friends to join us celebrate at the Gustafson Family Vineyards. We found this magic place by having certain relatively strict criteria: it needed to be pet and family friendly, have a good picnic area and optionally, complimentary tasting (that would not apply to us as a group, but helped eliminate hundreds of other wineries). When we looked at the pictures of Gustafson, we were pretty much sold. Their picnic area (with BYOF allowed) under oak trees, overlooking Lake Sonoma, was exactly what we were looking for and more!
The winery is a little bit out of the way, away from all the mainstream and better known places. But is it a gem! It is only a few minutes drive past the Lake Sonoma overlook, and it is surely worth the extra mile. A big gate welcomes you at the entrance, followed by some old olive trees, and finally, the majestic and jaw-dropping madrone trees! The oldest one at the property is the oldest in Sonoma county and possibly in California. It measures 11 feet in diameter. The madrone doesn't create rings as it ages, it is harder to determine how old they are. Nonetheless, they were the marker for the property owner -- madrone trees only grow in a very well drained soil -- and this is exactly what is best for the grapes. Gustafson only makes wine from the estate grapes, which accounts for a limited amount of cases they produce per year of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Rosé of Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Syrah.
The owner is a landscape designer and one can definitely notice the amount of love and care that went into making this place while also retaining the original landscape and trees (300 year old madrone!). The tasting room and the picnic area sit at the very top of the property (connected themselves by a ribbony path), surrounded by various varietals of grapes and trees, valleys and hills. The view from the picnic area was one of the most spectacular I've ever seen, yet so calming and serene, and we all paused for a brief moment to admire and take it in, between two sips of their delicious wine. The weather turned out to be more than perfect, a reasonably summery day in the end of winter (although, we've already declared it was spring a few weeks ago). The oak trees kept us cool, while the wine made us warm and happy.
The wine! Mainly because of the warm weather, I opted for the whites and the rosé, of course. A staff brought us a few bottles, told us a little bit about the history of the place and the wines, and poured us some glasses. The pure rosé of Syrah (i.e. they only used the Syrah grapes to produce it) was perfect: not too sweet, fruity, full of taste and nicely chilled.... We continued with the Riesling: also not too sweet (which is often the case), very tasty with a barely noticeable sparkle uplift. The last wine I tried was Sauvignon Blanc: probably my least favorite of the three, I guess it is not so appealing to me in general. Very bright, light and dry. (I need to work on my wine descriptions!) I finished with another glass of my favorite, the rosé, of course!
A "shameless" birthday selfie.... Because we need to do it more often! :-)