Summer Sipping in Sonoma
Thirty years ago this week, I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Sonoma County, California, for the first of what would be many future visits. As a young twenty something I was beyond excited to experience this place that had inspired many of my culinary creations and was responsible for producing much of what filled my wine glass in those days.
Working in the restaurant business in the years leading up to that trip, I met many winery principals who traveled the country introducing restauranteurs, wine shop owners and others outside of California to their current releases of primarily Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. For a young aspiring oenophile meeting these “farmers” and listening intuitively as they spoke of their passions and struggles and all things Sonoma was invigorating. Understand that in the 70’s 80’s & early 90’s Sonoma County appeared to play second fiddle to the ever popular Napa Valley. Napa had the big names of Mondavi, Charles Krug, Cakebread, Grigich, and of course Chateau Montelena which placed Napa on the world map after the historic “Judgment of Paris” wine competition.
These bigger players had deeper pockets to self promote their brands individually and collectively. To a certain degree it would seem as though the wine producers of Sonoma were “ok” with the fact that they were indeed grape farmers and that the insignificant amount of publicity they were receiving was just fine. However, it is documented that a rivalry between these two counties existed then, and to a certain degree remains intact today with growers in both places feeling as though they are growing and producing superior vintages to each other.
It was in fact not until the late 90’s when a multitude of Gold medals began to be awarded to Sonoma Vintners, this of course caught the medias attention, and consumers finally took note of how special Sonoma County was. Having interacted with these owners and operators collaborating on wine dinners and festivals, and simply tasting together, I in fact began lifelong friendships with the folks at Gundlach Bundschu, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Deloach, Dry Creek Vineyards, and many others.
Now fast forward 30 years, you can imagine the wineries and tasting rooms in Sonoma and in most wine regions have evolved drastically, and for the most part deliciously! Granted some wineries have changed hands and implemented new tasting room guidelines, fees, and a reservation only policy, but what I find most impressive is how dialed in many are in regards to food & wine experiences. For consumers to now have the opportunity to touch the terroir that these vines are growing from and minutes later be sitting overlooking the natural beauty and indulging in perfectly prepared small plates and estate wines is an educational and memorable experience every time.
A relatively new Winery that specializes in Food & Wine lunches for its wine club members is Scribe Winery which was established in 2007. Located off of Denmark street in a historic hacienda, this property pioneered pre-prohibition Sonoma Valley winemaking and is managed by fourth-generation California farmers and brothers, Andrew and Adam Mariani. Current releases include a Summer Vermouth, estate bottled Rose of Pinot Noir, a blended Pet-Nat, Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate is only accessible by joining their Scribe Viticulture Society and as a member you will enjoy four vintner-curated allocations per year.
Released in the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall; each allocation contains a choice of 4, 6, or 12 bottles of limited production bottlings. The many varietals that I have enjoyed over the years have never disappointed, they are always well balanced, with incredible mouthfeel and finish…….and of course memorable. The added benefit of occasionally being able to enjoy the farm and the thoughtful cooking and pairings that are created in the hacienda and surrounding gardens is a personal highlight. There is no membership fee to join the SVS, and accounts are billed quarterly with the release of each allocation.
On a recent visit my guests and I enjoyed Mariani almonds, Little Gem Salad with honey lime vinaigrette, marinated olives, local Halibut Tostados, blistered shishitos, garden potato salad with green coriander, fresh melon and market strawberries.
Scribe Winery should definitely be a stop on your wine road map.
2100 Denmark St
Sonoma, CA 95476
After enjoying a lovely lunch at Scribe I highly suggest you pop next door to the always warm welcoming estate of Gundlach Bundschu. As mentioned earlier this historic property was the very first winery I visited in Sonoma thirty years ago. Sixth generation vintner Jeff Bundschu had paid a visit to my restaurant in the early 90’s, and along with having a thoughtful and lovely selection of estate wines to sample we also quickly discovered that we were both 20 something’s trying to navigate the ever challenging hospitality world.
On his next visit to my restaurant he hosted a wine pairing dinner and shared with our guests the story, passion and dedication his family had given to viticulture for generations. It was in fact a delicious evening and a very memorable dinner. Soon after that dinner I rolled up to GB on a bicycle adventure in July of 1993. It was a scorching day and I was dehydrated after a 15 mile mountainous ride, however, the immediate welcoming reception from Jeff and the entire staff made me realize once again how special this estate and family was. Along with a lovely tasting room and beautiful wine cave, GB has also garnered a reputation for hosting musical talent.
Upcoming events include an evening of live music in the Redwood Barn with Co-Headliners Tune-Yards & Os Mutantes! – presented by (((folkYeah!))) and Gundlach Bundschu Winery.
When: Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023
Where: GB Redwood Bard
Time: Doors 6pm | Show 7pm
Tickets: $55+ Fac Fees.
As mentioned gorgeous outdoor areas combined with estate wines make a delightful afternoon at GB. Be sure to sample their Gewurztraminer which Jacob Gundlach brought over to Rhinefarm generations ago. Many vintners in Alsace make their Gewürztraminers with a touch of residual sugar, Gundlach Bundschu produces theirs completely dry, with bright acidity,…..perfect to enjoy in the California sunshine.
The wine making team at Gundlach Bundschu gives Pinot Noir meticulous attention in the vineyard and in the cellar. The result drinks with vibrance and grace.
My absolute favorite of GB’s portfolio however is their food-friendly rosé. Crafted from five acres of Tempranillo planted in 1993 in the cooler area of the estate, this wine offers layers of aromas and flavors from strawberry to brewed tea. It pairs deliciously with an array of items including grilled wild salmon and pork carnitas.
Gundlach Bundschu is open every day 11am – 5:30pm for tours and tastings, with the last reservation at 4pm. Reservations are encouraged, especially on the weekends. If you prefer to walk-in, they recommend stopping by on a weekday for your best chance for a seated tasting. The property is family and dog friendly.
Gundlach Bundschu Winery
2000 Denmark Street
Sonoma, CA 95476