15 June 2009

Green Winemaking Tour: Gundlach Bundschu

I've tried hard not to pick favorites when writing about this Sonoma wine tour, but my final visit of the trip ended up being one of the most rewarding. Mere hours before I was scheduled to fly out of SFO, I zipped over to Gundlach Bundschu.

Sonoma kept surprising me with its natural beauty, and this was no exception. This little valley managed to take you out of the real world for a short time. I even turned off my cell phone and just sat on the trunk of the car for a while, taking in the gorgeous scenery. My grandfather used to do this on our long trips--we'd pull over and turn off the engine, or take a break from a hike to sit on a cliff for a while in pure silence. I didn't appreciate it much as a child, but now I understand why these moments are important in today's ever busier and noisier world.

There's no way I could do justice to the 150-year history of this winery in this review, but I'll note that they survived not only Prohibition but also the loss of a million gallons of wine during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Despite the long history, the current generation of this family winery has embraced all sorts of new approaches to wine. Jeff Bundschu was not only co-founder of the 90s-era Wine Brats movement, but has also embraced wine blogs such as his recent video interview with friend and fellow wineblogger Hardy Wallace of Dirty South Wine.

Marketing Director Susan Sueiro was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, such as the identity of the little dog that wandered into my photo. That's Cartucho, Spanish for cartridge. Sueiro elaborated, "He is a Chihuahua mix and the loyal shadow of Pedro Garcia, an assistant supervisor of our vineyard crew, named for the quick, erratic paths he takes through the vineyards. He's out there every day with the guys, assisting the barn owls with gopher eradication and, I can personally attest, doing his best to chase away any women that dare approach."

On the green winemaking front, this winery goes to incredible lengths. They are able to reclaim up to 70% of the water used on the property, which is a major issue in water-strapped California. A combination of man-made ponds and natural wetlands complement careful water management strategies. There are other unique structures, like solar powered fans on the property that prevent frost damage as harvest approaches.

Speaking of solar power, there are two arrays on the property that provide a total of 110 kilowatts of power and account for the majority of the winery's electricity needs. Of the 80kW array, Sueiro notes, "Sadly, we ripped out a young block of perfect Dijon 117 Pinot Noir to put that in."

Like some of the other wineries I visited, Gundlach Bundschu is a little off the beaten path but definitely worth the time for a visit. Again, allow yourself some time, bring a picnic, and enjoy the beauty, peace, and quiet.

As a dry rosé fanatic and one who was trying to limit the number of bottles I'd be bringing home, I had to choose the 2007 Gundlach Bundschu Tempranillo Rosé which was uncorked for a recent dinner party (this wine was served during the appetizer course and enjoyed with the salad). $22, 14.5% abv. Apricot, rose petals, raspberries, lemon. Bright and refreshing, like a nice pink lemonade. Not the fake stuff pumped out of some factory in New Jersey, but take homemade lemonade and add a dash of puréed raspberries or strawberries, maybe even a bit of cranberry juice.

Wines Sampled at the Vineyard

For more details and ordering information, check out the Gundlach Bundschu website.

2006 Chardonnay Rhinefarm. Light pear, flowers, lightly buttery, touch of toast.

2006 Pinot Noir Rhinefarm. Earthy, ripe strawberries, nice acidity, tart and crisp.

2005 Tempranillo Rhinefarm. Earthy, touch of barn, light, low tannins, short finish. Bright raspberry flavors.

2006 Merlot Rhinefarm. Round, cherry, black plum.

2005 Mountain Cuvée Rhinefarm. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc. Jam, blueberries, blackberries. My favorite of the tasting, highly recommended.

2006 Zinfandel Rhinefarm. Leather, pepper, ash, bacon.

2006 Syrah. Black cherry, black pepper, very nice and begging for grilled meat.

2006 Cabernet Franc Rhinefarm. Deep berries, peppery, lingering tannins.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Black plum, meaty, cinnamon, toasty, chocolate.

2005 Vintage Reserve. Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Deep, inky wine with black currant and jam aromas. Each year for the Vintage Reserve, a a different artist is chosen for the label. In this release, RK Rowell was chosen. During the same 2005 season that saw great grapes for Gundlach Bundschu, Rowell lost his home in Hurricane Katrina and temporarily relocated to Memphis. (It all comes full circle, right?) His work Stompin’ Tchoupitoulas was selected by Gundlach Bundschu for the label of the 2005 Vintage Reserve.


The Wine Commonsewer (TWC) said...

A 70% reclaim of gray water is remarkable.

I might add here that California has water issues but it isn't because we don't have any water.

One thing most people do not realize, whether they live here or elsewhere, is that 75-80% of our water goes to agriculture in California. So when the school sends home flyers asking the kids to cut their showers by two minutes, it is both misleading and empty.

Benito said...


Thanks for the local perspective. It's pretty incredible what they've been able to do, and while it might not be applicable for every kind of farming in California, I applaud their efforts.

Of course, here in Tennessee water is a different issue. We don't have basements, because if you dig down three feet you hit water. We've had so much rain lately I'm going to develop webbed feet soon.

Last year water-thirsty Georgia wanted to redraw the borders between the states to get a hold of Tennessee water. We weren't real happy about that.


The Wine Commonsewer (TWC) said...

...between the states to get a hold of Tennessee water. We weren't real happy about that.

You know what Mark Twain said....

Samantha Dugan said...

Seems like everyone that goes to Gundlach Bundschu becomes a fan for life, says a lot about the wines, and the people there. I have not seen the wines in our market for a few years, so it's nice to hear the wines are still as tasty as I remember.

Benito said...


It's such a cool place, and there are whimsical touches all over the place. At the bottom of the tasting brochure is a set of four images: a gun, a lock, a bun (bread roll), and a shoe. I thought it was a printing error at first--someone selected a dingbats font by mistake--but it's a visual pronunciation guide for the company name.

In the tasting room, they calmly help people say things like "Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer" which can be a mouthful if you're not used to saying German words.

German tends to happily string multiple words together into one big word, like the year 1864: achtzehnhundertvierundsechzig. In German class we used to try to make up big, useless words, like a verb meaning "to do math homework": mathematikhauseaufgabenmachen.