According to The Wine Institute, the United States is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. Every state in the US makes wine, and many of those states make good wine, however, the state of California has 90% of the vineyards of the US. I'll let that sink in a minute. Just over the hill, dear reader, you have access to 90% of the world's fourth largest producer of wine.
What's wonderful about having so much access to the bulk of our nation's wine country is that there are many small wineries we won't see in our local stores. According to some sources, the recession forced many distributors to drop some smaller wineries. The downturn has cut into our selection. But the smaller wine producers are still available to us over the hill.
Just a short 3 hour drive from Reno, but 150 years in the making is the winery, Gundlach Bundschu. Established in 1858, Gun Bun grew tremendously over its first 50 years. At the turn of the last century, their vineyards were in Sonoma, where they are, now, but the wines were made in San Francisco, making upwards of 300,000 cases per year. Then came the 1906 earthquake. It destroyed the winery. So, the family rebuilt it, but the second time in Sonoma.
Today, the family continues to run the winery. They are more focused than ever on quality, low yield, small production wines. Today the winery's annual output is closer to 30,000 cases.
Because the vineyards pre-date California's AVA system, the winery straddles two distinct American Viticultural Areas, Carneros AVA and Sonoma Valley AVA. Both are considered cool climate AVA's, but Gun Bun's Carneros vineyards are located at lower altitudes making them ideal for the cool weather grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.
Their Gewurztraminer is planted in clay loam. It is slow fermented, using some frozen grapes to keep fermentation low and slow. The wine is fermented completely dry, giving it a bright, fresh apple flavor along with the pear, ginger and lychee aromas.
At the higher elevations, in volcanic soil lie the blocks of Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot.
The Merlot is cold soaked for three to five days, extracting as much of the phenolics as possible. The phenols are the tannins of the wine. After fermentation, the wine is aged in both old and new oak. New oak will impart more flavors such as vanilla and wood. Gundlach Bundschu believes the wood aromas in the wine should be present, but subtle, which is why they use mostly old oak. To add interest to the flavors, they use several different types of oak including French and American. The resulting wine is a well structured Merlot with aromas of dark fruit, anise, and some underlying wood tones.
As of now, the wines of Gundlach Bundschu are not available in the retail stores of Reno. However, both the Gewurztraminer and Merlot as well as their Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel are well worth the drive, just over the hill.