Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma


Gundlach Bundschu (“gun-lock, bun-shoe”), is a Regenerative Organic Certified farm located on the east end of Sonoma. To really experience the scope of the 300-plus acre Rhinefarm (as the estate is known), we hopped on the Pinz Excursion, a bumpy, jumpy off-roading ride in a 1973 Pinzgauer (“pinz-gower”), a 6-wheel-drive Swiss Army transport vehicle. The tour takes about two hours, with several stops along the way to taste wine and learn about the past, present and future of the winery.

The oldest family-owned and -operated winery in California, Gundlach Bundschu was founded in 1858 by Jacob Gundlach, a German immigrant who initially came to the states to make his fortune in the Gold Rush and win the hand of his beloved Ava. John, our guide, traces the family through six generations, including Jacob and Ava’s eldest daughter, Francisca, marrying her father’s business partner, Charles Bundschu, in 1875.

Our first stop is Mary’s House, where three generations of Bundschus were born and raised. We taste a dry 2023 Gewurztraminer, made in the French style, with no residual sugars. It gives refreshing tropical fruit notes and herbaceous spice. As we enjoy the wine, we hear how the family survived the 1906 earthquake and Prohibition, which severely curtailed its original wine business, and eventually found its way back with its first modern releases in 1973.

Into the dirt

Back on the Pinz, we drop to the valley floor, passing a cork tree and learning about sustainable harvesting. An automated weather station monitors all aspects of climate and relays information to the vineyard manager. A spore sensor is part of a pilot program to scan for leafy mildew and reduce the need to treat vines preventively.

Out of the truck, a fallow field, empty save for a few bee boxes, offers lessons in crop rotation, low-till farming, carbon capture and beneficial birds. John talks about how regenerative organic farming contributes to the health of the land and the larger business.

We sip 2023 Rhinefarm Rosé, 100% pinot noir with just three hours of skin contact. It’s crisp and alluring.

We learn that Gundlach Bundschu captures 100% of water used at the winery, filters it through a manmade marsh and reclamation pond, and reuses it for irrigation. Solar panels on the pond and hillside generate most of the electricity needed to run the whole operation.

Full farm experience

Another jaunt by Pinz, mostly avoiding the mud and the road ruts, travels past babydoll sheep and their canine guardians, Burt and Reynolds. We soon land beside a few vineyards, where we sample a stellar 2021 Pinot Noir (full-bodied and spicy) and learn about weather patterns.

The final stop is at a sheltered enclave among the vines, where we taste a 2021 Merlot (velvety with cocoa notes and strong tannin) and a 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon (intense dark fruit but softer than a Napa-style cab) alongside cheese and charcuterie. John shares a map of the property and talks about microclimates and soil types. Selfies are taken. Eventually we board the Pinz one last time and head back to the winery to conclude our tour.

Back in the tasting room, we’re poured a 2019 Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is elegant, expressive and age-worthy. It’s been a day of learning—in the best possible way—and we head home with our minds full and our taste buds satisfied.

Did you know?

The Gundlach Bundschu property is open to its neighbors, welcoming walkers (with and without dogs) to roam among the vines. A hillside road that makes a large loop to and from the town of Sonoma is popular among cyclists.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery

2000 Denmark St., Sonoma

Open daily, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Tastings include:

Rhinefarm Tasting: Enjoy flight in the winery courtyard, Bacchus Hideaway, (or indoors in the historic barrel room, weather dependent) surrounded by organic vineyards and wine caves. $50 per person; 90 minutes.

Vineyard and Cave Experience: Explore the underground world of Gundlach Bundschu in the wine caves and organic vineyards. $75; 90 minutes.

Pinz Excursion: Climb aboard the Pinzgauer, a Swiss Army transport vehicle, for an off-roading experience across Rhinefarm. $105; 2 hours.

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