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This 40th Anniversary Merlot Proves Worthy of Milestone — Your Virtual Wine Tasting Find

A Journey to Rhinefarm

BY // 12.16.20

Virtual wine tastings. How many have you participated in during the past week? I’ve enjoyed several, including one a few days ago that featured a mourvèdre and a cabernet sauvignon, all from Arizona, from different producers, and all representing great value.

COVID-19 has, of course, made this type of tasting a regular thing, and I am looking forward to taking part in more of them later this week, and well (who knows for how long?) into the future. Let me know how yours are going.

Today, I want to tell you about a 2016 merlot, from Gundlach Bundschu, an estate that traces its founding to 1858, when a Bavarian, Jacob Gundlach, purchased 400 acres in Sonoma, California — an expanse he named Rhinefarm. He then returned to Germany, married Eva, and the couple traveled in their homeland and France on their honeymoon, during which Jacob bought the rootstock he planted on the farm. The following year, 1859, Jacob and his three partners established 60,000 vines on the property.

The sixth generation of the family is now in charge at Rhinefarm, led by Jeff Bundschu, who became president of the family-owned venture in 2001, when he was 33.

To the 2016 merlot. It marked the 40th anniversary of the wine for Gundlach Bundschu (the first vintage was 1976), and here’s the rundown on the varietal composition: 82 percent merlot, 9 percent petit verdot, and 9 percent cabernet sauvignon. It was aged for 17 months in 100 percent French oak (Nadalié), 40 percent new. Alcohol is 14.6 percent.

I opened this bottle one evening last week, and sampled it immediately. I was met with aromas of dark cherries, tobacco, earth, and mushroom, an entirely pleasant experience. The spice notes rang out in the mouth, along with mushroom, vanilla (slight), ripe cherry and leather. Tannins here are rounded, relaxed. My next taste came 20 minutes later, and the time benefitted the wine’s balance.

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Pairings? I had laid out a block of Gorgonzola earlier in the day, and it was perfect for this bottle. The main course that evening was lamb meatballs, and I cannot think of anything I’d enjoy more with this merlot, which retails for around $35 — it’s sold out at the winery, but inquire about it at your merchant of choice. Also, look for other GunBun merlots, all worthy pours.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out Mise en Place.

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