When you think of a family owned winery that dates back centuries where does you mind go? France? Italy? Greece? Even Turkey, believed to be the birth of wine? What if I were to say California? That’s right, California. Then where does your mind travel? Napa? No! How about Sonoma? Yes, Sonoma! Do you know which winery is the oldest family owned winery in California? Gundlach Bundschu!
Gundlach Bundschu has quite a history! The winery began in 1858, when Jacob Gundlach purchased 400 acres in Sonoma before heading back to Bavaria to marry his childhood sweetheart. After their wedding the two traveled to Germany and France buying rootstock to bring back to Sonoma. The first full vintage produced on Rhinefarm, Sonoma was in 1861. By 1868, Jacob Gundlach had joined forces with the newly immigrated Charles Bundschu and the two were a force! They weathered the phylloxera outbeak of the 1870’s by purchasing phylloxera resistant Texas rootstock and were the first to graft European vines to these resistant native roots. In 1894, upon the death of Jacob Gundlach the winery was officially renamed Gundlach Bundschu. Upon ratification of the 18th amendment, in January 1919 Gundlach Bundschu closed its doors. After the 21st amendment was passed the wine community in California was flowing again and Gundlach Bundschu began selling their grapes to Inglenook. Prohibition ended the production of wine at Rhinefarm for over a century, instead relying on selling grapes to prominent wineries such as Almaden and Louis Martini. But by 1969, Jim Bundschu was ready to revamp Rhinefarm and get back into the winemaking business. In 1976, Gundlach Bundschu released its first vintage in over a century. In 2008, the Bundschu family celebrated the Gundlach Bundschu 150th anniversary. Today, the sky is the limit and the wine keeps getting better!
Gundlach Bundschu is committed to the environment. All vineyards and gardens are farmed sustainably. They promote water conservation and air quality by recycling winery waste water, reclaiming 70% process water. Their floating solar array provides 100% power used by water recycling program. They participate in Sonoma’s Certified Fish Friendly Farming program.
At Gundlach Bundschu we define sustainability broadly, seeking not only to be responsible stewards of the land, but also to preserve this land for future generations of our family. There is nothing static about this view of sustainability — it requires innovation and action. We believe that preserving the unique ecosystem of Rhinefarm is essential to wine quality, as well as to the health of our family and business.
Gundlach Bundschu is focuses on small lot production of ultra-premium, estate focused wines with an annual production less than 40,000 cases. Additionally, the Bundschu family is dedicated to leadership of sustainable, terroir driven winemaking in Sonoma County.
Gewurztraminer 2014: Crafted in an Alsatian style, this Gewurtz was DRY! It was crafted from estate grapes cultivated on the Sonoma Coast from vines brought by Charles Bundschu from his homeland in 1858. This wine poured a beautiful gold into the glass; although it is dry on the palate it still offered the amazing bouquet of Gewurztraminer; stone fruit notes of peaches and apricots, lychee, pears, citrus zest; on the palate its zesty with a mouth watering tangy quality that was balanced with racy acidity and a long, tart finish. Aged in 90% stainless steel with 10% fermentation in neutral oak; 14.3% alcohol. SRP $22.50. Pair with cheese, sushi, salads, seafood, shellfish and poultry.
Mountain Cuvee 2013: This Bordeaux style blend was 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Malbec. It poured a lovely garnet in the glass; the nose offers notes of black berries, cherries, plums, and red and black raspberries, along with rich spices, black pepper, a touch of cocoa, and passing notes of vanilla; on the palate it offers great texture and pure pleasure, easy to drink, layers of flavors are wrapped in firm acidity and integrated tannins with a long, pleasing finish; delightful. Aged for 14 months in predominately French oak, 14.8% alcohol. Recommended to drink within 5 years of vintage. Pair with roast beef, steak, lasagna, or even a hearty poultry dish. SRP $20.
Merlot 2012 Estate Grown Sonoma Valley: This wine was crafted of 88% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Verdot; it poured a delicate ruby with scarlet highlights into the glass; on the nose a basket of fresh blackberries, strawberries and cherry dance about while earthy notes of a cedar cigar box temp with aromas of spice and fresh tobacco are wrapped in soft, fresh cedar; on the palate this Merlot is big yet beautifully balanced between the fruit and earthy flavors as well as between acidity and tannins; elegant structure with a pleasing textural mouthfeel and a persistent finish. Aged 17 months in 100% new French oak; 14.6% alcohol. SRP $32. Pair with steak, brisket, ribs, braised red meat, and hearty beef pasta dishes.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Sonoma Valley: This wine was crafted of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petite Verdot, 3% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc; it poured a sultry deep ruby with inky purple highlights; upon a quick swirl dazzling aromas of red cherries, black plums, and pomegranates are quickly enveloped by chocolate, baking spices, a touch of black tea, damp underbrush and ending with delicious vanilla; it coats the palate with all those pleasing flavors leaving no part untouched, thick and full bodied with long tannins and round acidity, this is a Cab lovers Cab for sure! It is very balanced with a crush velvety texture and a long finish. Aged 18 months in French oak, 45% new; 14.8% alcohol. SRP $50. This tannins structure wants fat so pair with your favorite fillet! This wine can be enjoyed now with an hour+ decanting, recommended 7-12 years from vintage.
Although I missed the Sonoma Chat that featured these wines, I was super impressed with each of them. Super high quality at very reasonable prices. I encourage you to visit the Gundlach Bundschu web site to learn more about them, view their entire portfolio of wines, and order plenty for yourself! Furthermore, it is a great place for a wedding or special event, and they offer great tours and fun concerts so add Gundlach Bundschu to the top of your next Sonoma visit! I am!
My Song Selection: It is hard to select one song for three full body reds and a dry Gewurtz. However, no matter which one of these four wines you chose they are all rock!
Get your own bottles or 12 of Gundlach Bundschu wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!
8 responses to “One Family Started it All: Gundlach Bundschu”
They are why/how I began writing. Sorry I missed the chat. Love them.
That’s great inspiration!
Wow the Gewurztraminer sounds outstanding. And of course, Lenny Kravitz is always a good bet. 🙂
It was really good Kathryn. A wine you would love! Cheers
Loved this winery and you described it as though I was there again! Got a behind the scenes with one of the owners and fell in love with this place. The first thing he covered was how to properly pronounce the name:)
it used to be a joke in Sonoma; If you can say Gundlach Bundlach Gewrztraminer the cops would let you drive home!
Fantastic! Thank you for sharing!
I love these stories of family winemakers. This is the stuff that excites me to write (and sip). Cheers!