• I woke up this morning to the sound of turtles. You may not think it, but turtles can be quite vocal. It’s kind of like a cross between a coo, a screech, and a purr. Seeing as how I do not live with any turtles this came as a shock. It was as if the entire Vienna boys choir was just outside my window. The sun was barely up, but I wasn’t—I was full boar awake and now very perplexed. I put on my bunny slippers and bath robe, walked downstairs from my room, opened the door, and my fears were realized. There before me was a virtual army of tortoises (or is it tortii?) I had no idea of what to do. Today was supposed to be the wine tasting in Sonoma with friends. I closed the door and quickly opened it again… Nope they were still there. I counted about 45, but it was difficult because some were hiding and the harder I tried to count the more illusive the total number was. At this point a few of the quicker ones had actually made it inside the front door. I spent the next hour trying to find boxes for all of them. Just when I got one box full another group of turtles bum rushed the door trumpets blazing with the look of conquest in their eyes. Looking at the turtle closest to me I saw a little yellow eye mask and a pair of nunchucks. At this point I woke up for real.

    We drove with the top down and enjoyed the blazing sun. It was hot (easily in the mid 90’s) and although the heat felt good. I was looking forward to the A/C. Our first stop was Gundlach – Bundschu which resides just outside the city of Sonoma.

    I had a pre-arranged meeting with Marina (our wine tour guide) and she met us at the counter with a fun personality and a well rehearsed knowledge of everything Gundlach. We started with the 2009 Gewürztraminer, Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast. The floral aspects of the wine were a touch more subdued (which I like) than one usually finds in this varietal. It was also very dry and crisp (almost overwhelmingly so) with flavors of white pear, white under ripened nectarine and lemon zest. Three of my picks are only available at the tasting room or through their wine club including the 2009 Tempranillo Rosé, Estate Vineyard Sonoma Valley—which was the crowd favorite especially in the intense heat. Light pink in color this Tempranillo (with a splash of Pinot Noir) was only in contact with the grape skins for a day or two (their non-rosé Tempranillo sees two weeks on the skins.)

    On a side note, all red grapes produce white juice when squeezed (save for a very few that produce red juice like Alicante Bouschet,) and only when the juice is left in contact with the skins does it take on the red color.

    Returning to the rosé.. It was bright and refreshing with plenty of acidity. On the palate was strawberry, light red cherry and raspberry. I ended up buying a bottle for our picnic the next day. We reluctantly left the rose behind to try their 2008 Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast. Its not very often that a winery makes their Pinot Noir for aging, but they definitely do. The Pinot stays twelve months in 100% French oak (40% new) which imparts a mouth drying tannin not unlike when sucking on a popsicle stick. This helps it age and pair with meat. A soft earthy spice balanced the wine’s blackberry and cherry characteristics.

    The wine that followed was the 2007 Tempranillo, Estate Vineyard Sonoma Valley (also a winery exclusive) that was aged fourteen months in 100% American oak (35% new.) Most often grown in Spain, Tempranillo is typically a lighter wine with higher acid and lower in alcohol. Their version was more Californian in style with 14.2% alcohol, dark color, medium to bold tannins and only slightly more acidity than the Pinot. With a fruit forward medium bodied mouth feel exhibiting black fruit and a touch of spice this wine would age with finesse and pair wonderfully with lamb.

    The 2007 Cabernet Franc, Estate Vineyard Sonoma Valley was produced in a manner similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. Bold fruit, broad tannins and a rich texture give the Cab Franc a sense of accomplishment. It begs to be consumed with food, and a nice New York strip steak would fit the bill nicely.

    We finished with the Vintage Reserve label of which there were four being tasted.  The 2000 and 2003 were entirely Cabernet Sauvignon and although good seemed monochromatic in comparison to the 2004 and the 2006. The later vintages had Petit Verdot added to the mix and Malbec thrown in on the 2006 (usually in a Cab Sauv blend the wine maker’s first two picks are Merlot and Cab Franc for blending.) This worked well for the wines giving them a more balanced finished product.  Complex, bold and unctuous, the ‘04 and ‘06 made a great addition to the list.

    All in all the wine making team at Gundlach Bundschu knows what they’re doing, as well they oughta since we’re talking sixth generations of vintners. The reds as a whole really want to be aged or drunk with food so rather than wait a decade on the vintage reserve in particular I suggest a big steak and a lotta friends and maybe a couple extra bottles thrown in for good measure.