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by Fred McMillin
Ashes To Ashes
"When the whirlpool of fire and flames burst forth
"The Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma County was abandoned, and eventually burned down."
"Jacob Gundlach and Charles Bundschu were men of taste and learning, who had as much skill as any cellar-master along the Rhine in Germany. Their names still echo after the dark night of Prohibition, even if their wines are no more!"
The Rest of the Story
Those wines were missed. Professor Paul Lukacs writes that a little over a century ago they were Sonoma's best whites. Think of such an obscure California winery winning a gold medal in Paris (1900)! The Sauvignon Blanc garnered a Gold at another large U.S.A. tasting.
Then, one Halloween night about 45 years ago, direct descendent Jim Bundschu couldn't stand it any longer. He decided to revive the winery. After all, the original Rhinefarm vineyard was still producing grapes for sale to local vintners. Also, he had been making wine from them at home, and it was turning out well. But, before we select today's best wines, let's check the origins.
Gundlach Bundschu Milestones
1840—Jacob Gundlach's parents ran a hotel and made wine in Bavaria.
1850—Jacob arrives in San Francisco, starts a successful brewery, and soon has enough savings to set up the Rhinefarm Vineyard and a winery in Sonoma.
1864—Charles Bundschu has come from Germany, goes to work for Jacob, and marries Jacob's daughter.
1880—From 200 Rhinefarm acres comes 60,000 gallons of wine and another 180,000 lbs. Of grapes for sale.
Today—The revived winery is selling 50,000 cases annually. Let's see what the Wall Street Journal's Gaiter and Brecher think of some of the recent releases.
Pinor Noir, Rhinefarm Vineyard—Fruity, fun and very pleasant.
Merlot, Rhinefarm Vineyard—Intense, ripe berries; powerful; good enough for a significant occasion; very good.
We'll see how these and others did against Napa counterparts of the same price in the accompanying article, "A Napa Versus Sonoma Shootout."
Over 20 years ago, critic Robert Balzer wrote these words that still ring true today. "The revered old trade name of Gundlach Bundschu has returned to the marketplace, offering wine made from grapes grown on the original land, gathering medals at every competition."
For Your Summer Reading—July-August 2001
This page created July 2001