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by Fred McMillin
for May 9, 1997

Winery of the Week

Bundschu Can-Do

Prologue: The year was 1864. Lincoln was reelected. Tolstoy put the finishing touches on "War and Peace." Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization (for wine)...and in the Sonoma Valley, Charles Bundschu married the boss' daughter.

Charles Bundschu
 
Jacob Gundlach
The Rest of the Story: The boss was Bavarian-born Jacob Gundlach. He had arrived in San Francisco 14 years earlier. There he founded the successful "Bavarian Brewery." However, wine had even greater appeal than beer. Hence, he brought vines from Germany and planted them on 400 acres in Sonoma that he called the Rhinefarm. The winery was made to last...built of stone.

Jacob and his son-in-law really hit it off. Ten years later the firm was called Gundlach-Bundschu and its sales were called phenomenal...150,000 cases. Another 10 years and their stone storage vaults occupied an entire block in San Francisco. Their wines were coveted in New York, and the "Gundlach-Bundschu Wine Co." would soon be listed among the award winners at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Then phylloxera, the 1906 earthquake (cellars totally destroyed) and Prohibition stopped the show, except for growing and selling grapes to others. But Charles' great-great grandson, Jim Bundschu, could not let that legacy lay. He re-built the winery around those original stone walls and in 1973 Gundlach-Bundschu was back in business with 600 cases of Zinfandel. Great move. The 139th consecutive harvest from the Rhinefarm is on the horizon. Not long ago their wines were entered in the American Classics Competition and won the most awards, nine. Equally important, you can see that the operation has been run by "a few good men." and now they have another one. Jim's son, Jeff Bundschu, is doing more and more of the heavy lifting, including suppling much of the information for this article.

Just the Facts

Name Gundlach-Bundschu Wine Company
Location Vineburg, Sonoma County, CA
Recommended Wines   Pretty solid lineup. Start with Zin, Cab or Merlot.

Postscript: Second generation Carl Bundschu said he was "born in a wine barrel." I think they all were.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend


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