The Cienega Valley has been known for over 170 years and is one of San Benito County’s treasured locations. Now Eden Rift Winery, in the heart of the valley, has created a new venue. Eden Rift will now share the site with people looking for a place to stage weddings or events among the old-growth oak trees overlooking the historic vineyards.
Located in a remote corner of the winery, adjacent to a sprawling block of Pinot Noir vines,
Gavilan Vale is, according to Eden Rift’s owner Christian Pillsbury, a fortunate result of the pandemic.
“If you were selling $20 cabernets online, you did pretty well,” he said. “But if you have a more sensitive story with your wine, it was a lot more work. So the two options were to slowly go out of business, or we could start working harder and take on a new project.”
Pillsbury worked with the Fulcrum Group, a San Francisco-based event planning company, to select the site and design the facility. Now completed, there have already been a dozen events at Gavilan Vale including a fundraiser for Congressman Jimmy Panetta prior to recent district changes.
“We are really excited about Gavilan Vale,” said Fulcrum Group CEO Liz Curtis. “Engagements have been up during the pandemic and we thought this would be a great time to jump into this space. Napa is really inundated right now with weddings and we did not see a lot of value going there. Once we saw Eden Rift, we all just fell in love with the location.”
There are three defined spaces in the event center. The Ceremony Deck, the lowest deck closest to the roadway, provides ample space for a wedding and the dramatic panoramic backdrop of the meticulously tended vineyard.
“Most wineries where you can get married do not have their venues on the vines,” Curtis said. “So that is something special we have been able to incorporate here.”
The Cocktail Hour Deck is slightly up the hill from there, with the same basic design and the inclusion of a few oak trees growing up through the platform.
“The idea was to keep it as close to nature as we could,” Pillsbury said. “We wanted to highlight the softness and warmth of the wood and use the trees as the canopy. We did not have to cut any down, we just built around them.”
Above that is the Ballroom Deck, a glass walled and tented platform completely surrounded by the oak trees with a clear view down to the other platforms and the vineyards.
“We wanted the feeling of being in a treehouse, again fitting into the natural landscape,” Pillsbury said. “We wanted the venue to have a very light touch on the land that would speak to the kinds of events people might want to have here.”
The Gavilan Vale complex is set in a back area of the estate and is not visible from the main public areas, like the tasting room. At night, chandeliers hanging from the oaks provide lighting for the two lower decks. And, with no close neighbors, there are no noise restrictions or curfews for events staged there.
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