Gundlach Bundschu1

Winery of the Week: Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Gundlach Bundschu Winery: It might be a hard name to say (those in the know call it “Gun Bun” for short), but it is an estate vineyard with a story easy to love.

The oldest continuously operating family-owned winery in California, Gun Bun (let’s be in the know!) was established in 1858 by Bavarian native Jacob Gundlach. It is technically in the Sonoma Valley AVA of Sonoma County, but feels about a block from the Los Carneros AVA and Napa Valley AVA.

For its first 10 years, Gundlach operated the winery as Rhinefarm. I should mention that he started the winery while his high school sweetheart stayed in Bavaria at first. They stayed in love via letters until she came over and they married, going so far as to honeymoon in European wine country to do a little R&D. In 1968, Gundlach brought on German native and businessman Charles Bundschu, who quickly became an outspoken advocate for California wine. And then things get exciting for a number of reasons. First, they started producing some cutting-edge cool-climate wines, first Bordeaux style and then more the Rhone variety. More awesome than the amazing wines? Get this: Bundschu fell in love with Gundlach’s daughter, Francesca, and married her in 1875. In 1894, the family renamed the winery Gunlach Bundschu.

The combined family had several children (and then grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren, and so on) who stayed in the business, navigating through a devastating fire in 1906 and then the long-term devastation brought on during Prohibition before it transitioning it to the modern and ultra-sustainable high-end vineyard that it is today.

The winery as it is loved now first re-opened to the public in 1976. It was on the front lines of introducing Merlot in California and was honored for having the best red wine in the region in 1981. President Ronald Regan was such a fan he took a bottle of it on a trip to China, which resulted in the Chinese government asking the family to visit China to share their winemaking skills. Barrel caves were added in the early 1990s and in 2000 sixth-generation Bundschu, Jeff, took over as the winery’s president. Fellow sixth-generation Bundschus, Katie and Rob, came into the picture as well. Over the past 10 years, the focus on sustainability has been the major focus, as has hosting events, including music festivals for the area.

When visiting, I cannot recommend the Heritage Reserve Private Tasting ($150 each) enough. That is because it goes so far beyond a tasting. It does not take place in the traditional tasting area, but in Mary’s House. Why the name? The house served as the estate for a long line of Bundschu families, with Mary living in it the longest. Authentic Americana yet with billion-dollar views of about 20 miles worth of wine country, once you enter Mary’s House, expect a splash of white wine and to sit in the living room, where you will hear a far more colorful take on the story I share above. Then, just as your glass is almost empty, you are whisked into the formal dining room for a family-style, multi-course lunch complete with estate wine pairings. It is like Thanksgiving for two! Luscious and bold, each wine will hit you in a different way. Once finished, you are welcome to visit the main tasting area up the property or linger at Mary’s House a bit longer as the ambassador shares stories of rock stars, artists and other celebs who’ve visited the property over the years. In the winter months, there is also a superb cave tour worth reserving, and a speakeasy style cellar experience, which should also be reserved in advance.

Anytime I visit the property, it is impossible to leave without buying a few bottles for my friends at home. On my most recent jaunt, I splurged on a couple of wine gift packages for my friends who couldn’t visit with me this time around, including The Brunch Lovers pack ($105), complete with a bottle of 2020 Gewürtraminer, scone mix, pear preserves, coffee mugs, chocolate and specialty coffee; and The Foodie pack ($155), featuring 2020 Rhinefarm Rosé, 2019 Pinot Noir, tomato jam (which I stole from the package for myself!), artisan hard meats and cheeses, flatbread bites and this insane specialty mustard.

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