You won’t find flashy signs pointing to fourteen-acre Gabriel Farm in Sonoma County. That’s not how Torrey Olson likes to run his pick-it-yourself apple orchard. “There are no hay rides or big productions at our place,” says Olson. “We like to keep it small and personal.” But don’t let the two-lane road and laid-back country charm fool you. Olson has also added some modern touches: All of the farm’s power comes from large solar panels in the orchard, and Gabriel has been fully organic for the past five years. Visitors can pick from fifteen varieties of apple trees, including McIntosh, Fuji and Pink Lady—just make sure you know the right way to pick. According to Olson, the key is to gently twist the apple until it comes loose; it’s all in the wrist (grabbing and pulling is considered poor form). When you’ve basketed your fill, savor the fruits of your labor by picnicking in the shade of the big persimmon tree on the farm grounds. Then check out the farm’s homemade delicacies, including fresh-pressed apple juice and tasty apple pie. Golden and Delicious.
TIP: On your way to the farm, get your picnic supplies at two side-by-side markets in Graton: Pinnacle Market for artisan cheese and bread, Graton Market for fine wine.
Gabriel Farm, 3175 Sullivan Rd., Sebastopol; 707-829-0617. Call ahead and make an appointment. Apple-picking season runs from now through Halloween. To reach the farm from San Francisco: Travel north on Highway 101. Take 116 (Gravenstein Highway) going north through the town of Sebastopol. About three miles after Sebastopol, turn left onto Graton Rd. After a little over a mile, take a right onto Sullivan Rd. The farm will be on the right side of the road.
Pinnacle Market, 9056 Graton Rd., Graton; 707-823-2942.
Graton Market, 9050 Graton Rd., Graton; 707-823-8919.