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Rural Retreat: Eden Rift’s Gavilan Vale

By Kathy A. McDonald

Gavilan Vale Deck Overlooking Eden Rift Vineyards, 2022
Gavilan Vale’s shaded deck looks out at Eden Rift’s rolling vineyards.

Jelau Photography

Often it seems every corner of California is completely built up, but that’s not true in inland San Benito County, an hour south of San Jose and east of Monterey. Here, one can discover wild countryside, abundant wildlife (bobcats and wild boar roam freely), and the meticulously kept vineyards of the Cienega Valley American Viticultural Area. Eden Rift Vineyards is found within this bucolic landscape on 230 acres with well-tended pinot noir, chardonnay, and zinfandel vineyards; scenic hillsides; and a historic grove of California oaks that, as of January 2022, is home to a glass-walled, 300-person versatile event pavilion called Gavilan Vale.

“People haven’t experienced anything quite like it before,” says Liz Curtis, CEO of Fulcrum Group, which manages Eden Rift’s Gavilan Vale, booking corporate and private events. Eden Rift’s visionary owner, Christian Pillsbury, is an active partner. 

The interior of Gavilan Vale is beautiful and sophisticated with crystal chandeliers. Outside, there is a scenic deck overlooking rows of vineyards. The entire structure, including luxury bathroom facilities, is tucked into a woodsy canyon. Privacy is a given, and noise is never an issue.

“It’s Woodside or Atherton meets Napa with Reno’s level of restrictions,” is how Curtis explains the picturesque wine country setting, its inherent versatility, and lack of sound constraints or ending-time restrictions. A political fundraiser was the first nonwedding function held here, and Curtis contends the location is ideal for corporate retreats. A helipad on-site promises easy access for executives, and other attendees can drive or shuttle in from the Bay Area. “People feel like they are nestled in a magical place,” Curtis says.

Curtis anticipates a phase two and phase three to Gavilan Vale: a “glamping” (glamorous camping) component for those who want to stay on-site and, eventually, an outdoor amphitheater. Other locations on the winery’s grounds are also event-friendly: a scenic bluff with cozy couch seating is a ready-made, unconventional breakout space, while Eden Rift’s 1906-built, historic Prairie-style Dickinson House tasting room, with a catering kitchen and expansive lawn, is also at hand. ATV tours of the property are an educational diversion, and premium wine tasting from the estate winery is, of course, another option.