Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Let me take you back thirty-five years or so to a time when yours truly was a wine department manager for Big Star Foods.  The most profitable store of the chain of fifty-two stores was mine and it was located two doors to the left of where I am standing presently.  It was where the Publix store currently stands.

It seems quaint now, but Big Star was progressive and ahead of its time with concepts like defined departments within the store that lent themselves to more specialization in their offerings.  Like the idea of a wine department within a grocery store.  What a concept!

So I was hired out of Atlanta to run that department which was largely scripted from corporate headquarters.  The "laydown" racks, a couple of which still exist in our current store, were mostly intended to feature selected fine California estate wines, ie., the best of the best.  No other big player was doing such a thing so this was a coup for Big Star.  As the resident "wineguy" for the store my job was to sell those wines.

Here's the problem: I had just trained with Jim Sanders of Sanders Beverages of West Paces Ferry in Buckhead.  Jim was the French Burgundy expert of the southeastern United States.  So while I knew that the wines I was supposed to sell were good, many weren't world class.

Gundlach-Bundschuh was one of those acclaimed California laydown wines and my history with them goes back five years earlier to a time when I really was new to the business.  It was at that time that Atlanta was awash in California wines, so great was the promotion of what the culture savants were sure would be the next big thing.  As I recall Gun-Bun excelled at Gewurztraminer and Merlot back then.

Founded in 1858 Gundlach-Bundschuh is the oldest continually operating family-owned winery in the country.  With 320 acres they were the premier California winery until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake nearly put them out of business.  Their production facilities were in the city and everything there was a total loss.  They emerged from the quake a fraction of what they were before.  

Then the Prohibition Era (1920-33) pretty much finished the job.  Like so many others they made sacramental wine during those times but also segued into being a cattle farm until the commercial winery was resurrected en force in 1973.

The Gundlach-Bundschuh vineyards and winery are located in eastern Sonoma County in the Sonoma Valley AVA where it abuts the Napa and Carneros AVA's along the Mayacamas Mountain range. 

So how do Gun-Bun wines compare with others?  As we said above their Merlot and Gewurz are great.  The Cabernet is also.  We have the Gewurz and a red blend coming in on Friday and if the demand is there, the Cabernet and Merlot will follow.  All of their wines are estate products so I'm sure all types should be competitive with the best from California.

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