The birds are back — ducks, geese, egrets, avocets, grackles, pelicans, herons, hawks and sparrows — at the wetlands at Viansa Sonoma winery, and there’s no better place from which to view them than a wood-framed outlook equipped with binoculars, telescope, bird identification guide and blankets for chilly days.
Not into focusing on fowl? The three hilltop outlooks are also great for taking in a 270-degree view of Sonoma Valley and its vineyards, with a glass of wine in hand and a cheese plate on the table. Or purchase sandwiches, salads and weekend pizzas from Viansa’s marketplace and enjoy them from a lofty perch.
Vintage Wine Estates in Santa Rosa acquired the 168-acre Viansa property in 2013. Previous owners had allowed the 113-acre wetlands below the winery and tasting room to grow reedy and unkempt: Water-harnessing berms eroded, islands that hosted nesting birds, frogs and muskrats were swamped, and the marshes that once teemed with wildlife grew listless.
Working with Sonoma Nature bird expert Tom Rusert, Vintage director of operations Philip Hansell and his team began restoring the wetlands to their previous energetic glory, and in late 2015, introduced the outlooks. The birds spread the word and have returned to Viansa in increasing numbers.
The outlooks accommodate up to six people and are available by reservation, weather permitting. The $75-a-person fee includes a tasting of reserve wines and local cheeses. Drop-in guests to the southern Sonoma winery can still enjoy the (free) view from a walkway that wraps around the Tuscan-style tasting room and courtyard.
Other changes to Viansa include a new event center to replace the huge party tent that hosted weddings and other festivities, and a revamped wine program. Founders Sam and Vicki Sebastiani favored Italian varietals, and while winemaker Amy Ludovissy continues to produce Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, she has placed a big emphasis on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The flagship is Ossidiana, a red Bordeaux-style blend.
Viansa Sonoma, 25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-995-4740, viansasonoma.com