“In the Spring of 2002, the Gustafson family, including Dan, his daughter Kristen and son Jeff, traveled from Healdsburg to the Sea Ranch on the coast. Dan, a landscape architect and builder, had dreamed of establishing a vineyard in the hills of Sonoma County. That dream was fulfilled with the purchase of the old sheep ranch they found that day. In the following years, they planted a twenty-acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and other varieties and built an estate home, now available as a unique vacation rental.”
Scroll down to view our milestones.
Dan Gustasfon, a landscape architect and real estate developer based in Minneapolis, had a lifelong dream of developing an estate vineyard. He had studied California's Sea Ranch as young landscape architect, and during his time there, had developed a natural affinity for the rugged mountains of western Sonoma County.
In the spring of 2002, Dan discovered an undeveloped 87-acre parcel along Skaggs Springs Rd. Dan peered over the fence, and explained to his family that this would be a perfect place to grow grapes. Dan saw his dream come true that year with the purchase of those 87 acres in Dry Creek Valley. The old sheep ranch, at 1800 feet above sea level, has rich, red volcanic soil known for producing superb wine grapes.
The land had previously been cleared to pasture sheep, and in the spring of 2004, Dan planted 5 acres of vines within those existing clearings. The first five acres included Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and a small olive grove. Dan oversaw the vineyard planting from a vintage Airstream situated near the iconic Heritage Tree.
Stewards of the Land
Great care was taken to preserve old groves of madrone, oak, and redwood trees, including the "Sonoma County Heritage Tree." This 300-year-old madrone has a trunk diameter of eleven feet and is thought to be the largest madrone tree in Sonoma County, and perhaps the entire state of California.
Construction began on the estate residence, which was designed by architect Tim Bjella and built by general contractor Grant Lane. A second round of planting added 7 acres to the estate vineyard, including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
The Gustafson Family enjoyed their first harvest of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from the young estate vineyard, and the grapes were custom crushed at Mauritson winery. Dan also expanded the mountain estate with the purchase of an adjacent 160 acre parcel, which included a ranch home for our future winemaker.
Winemaker Emmett Reed
Winemaker Emmett Reed was hired in the summer of 2007 in preparation for the first estate crush. Winery tanks and equipment were installed just weeks before the harvest and the barrel cellar was constructed underneath the estate residence.
First Estate Harvest
The young estate vineyard yielded a beautiful 32-ton harvest of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Owner Dan Gustafson doubled as Winemaker Emmett Reed's "cellar intern." All of the 2007 vintages went on to score 90+ points in the Wine Enthusiast.
Final Estate Plantings
An additional 12 acres were added to the estate vineyard, including Zinfandel on our beautiful Picnic Ridge and Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc in the remote Summit View Block. Vineyard plantings are now complete at 20 acres; varietals of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Rosé of Syrah.
The balance of the land will remain as an ecological preserve. The 200+ acre preserve is characterized by old growth madrone and manzanita, several of California's native oak species, and isolated strands of redwoods. The preserve is home to many of California's wild and beautiful creatures, including bobcats, rattlesnakes, wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, and wild boar.
Construction on the estate home neared completion, and Emmett produced the first vintage of our famously delicious Estate Rosé of Syrah. Emmett and his wife Jessi also adopted Rampage, the world's best winery dog, from a local shelter. Sadly, as of May 2019 our beloved Rampage is no longer with us, but he surely lives on in our hearts and our memories!
First Big Break
The 2007 Estate Petite Sirah & 2007 Estate Zinfandel were awarded 92 points in the Wine Enthusiast, and the 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon earned a fantastic 90 points. Our Summit View block produced its first harvest of Estate Sauvignon Blanc and Estate Riesling, and the 2010 Estate Riesling won a double gold in the International Eastern Wine Competition.
A small slide on the lower slopes of our Picnic Ridge block was replanted from Zinfandel to Syrah. The new Syrah planting, which is characterized by cool temperatures and afternoon shade, is dedicated to the production of our popular Estate Rosé of Syrah. The additional planting takes our Rosé production from a mere 100 cases in 2008 to almost 300 cases by 2013.
Developing a Reputation for Excellence
Our estate tasting room steadily developed a reputation for excellent wines, beautiful views, and friendly hospitality. Additional tasting hours by appointment were added for Friday - Monday, and the Picnic Area became a year-round attraction for Wine Club Members and their guests.
The Estate Tasting Room expanded into its current location in late 2013, and Sharon Garber joined our hospitality team to welcome the increasing weekend traffic. Vanessa Ramirez joined our production team as Emmett's harvest intern, and her knack for hospitality made her a natural fit for our Tasting Room as well. Both have moved on to new ventures as of 2016.
Another New Face
In the fall of 2015 Tara Albertson joined the Gustafson team to work full-time in the downtown tasting room. Her previous tasting room experience, working at other Sonoma county wineries, was perfect to assist with the increasing amount of traffic coming into the Healdsburg tasting room. Tara also began working on Gustafson's new food & wine pairing experience to be released in the following year.
Food & Wine Pairing Experience with SHED
Gustafson began offering our first Food & Wine pairing experience! Partnered with the Healdsburg SHED, directly across the street from the downtown tasting room, this experience included a flight of 5 estate wines paired with different cheeses and charcuterie.
*As of January 2019, we are no longer offering this experience due to the closing of SHED in Healdsburg as they closed their doors on 12.31.2018.
New Team Member
Steve Spinella joins the Gustafson team to assist Vanessa at the Estate tasting room during the busy harvest season. Towards the end of 2016, Steve is promoted to a full time employee, filling in for Vanessa after she makes the move to Bend, Oregon with her boyfriend in November of 2016.
Another New Face
The Gustafson team grows a bit more in February of 2017 when Sierra Downey joins the staff. Sierra was hired to work full-time in the Healdsburg tasting room, to assist Tara with customers, and to take on the task of social media for the winery. As of Spring of 2018, Sierra has left Gustafson Family Vineyards to work for Sonoma County Tourism. We will surely miss her enthusiasm here in the tasting room but you may just see her around during some of our special events, as she has graciously offered to help out with our wine club events if needed!
New Tour, Tasting, & Lunch Experience at our Estate
Official launch of the Tour, Tasting, & Lunch experience at our Estate Tasting room in Geyserville! Let one of our wine educators take you on a guided tour of our Dry Creek Mountain vineyards and winery while tasting through a flight of our estate wines! The experience will conclude with a glass of your favorite Gustafson wine and boxed lunch provided by our friends at the iconic Dry Creek General Store as you enjoy our panoramic view of Lake Sonoma and the Dry Creek Valley below.
*Offered by appointment ONLY, Fridays – Mondays at 11 a.m. at our Dry Creek Valley Estate
New Team Member
In August of 2017 Deanne Ehlert joins the Gustafson team as our newest part-time employee to assist Steve at our Estate tasting room. As of August 2019, Deanne has left the Gustafson team but can sometimes be found at our winery events and off-site pourings on occasion.
Weddings at Gustafson Family Vineyards!
As of 2018 – Gustafson Family Vineyards is now available as a venue for weddings and other private events. Please contact us directly for details about hosting your special day at Gustafson Family Vineyards!
Call us at (707) 433-2371 or email us at email@example.com
Another New Team Member
In June of 2018 our newest addition to the Gustafson team, Nancy Talley, joined us to work full-time in sales & hospitality and to assist Tara at our Healdsburg Tasting Room. As of May 2020, with the closure of our Healdsburg Tasting Room, Nancy has left the Gustafson team but can be found lending a hand at winery events and off-site pourings.
NEW Summer Event at the Winery!
We hosted our Pre-Harvest Pizza Party with Huria’s Woodfired Catering! Guests enjoyed awesome woodfired pizzas and wine at our picnic grounds for the afternoon. Check out our events page for more details!
Thanks for the Memories!
Due to wildfire damages incurred to our property and the surrounding areas, from the 2020 LNU wildfire, Gustafson Family Vineyard has made the exceedingly difficult decision to discontinue winery operations permanently.