Hi- It's Jeff. ‘Tis the season for, among other things, ‘best of’ lists from wine publications. So far there have been three floating around our office- the Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast and the San Francisco Chronicle. They all are similar in that they list their top wines of the year, ranked in some way that accounts for score, price point and availability. We did not make it on any of these lists. We didn’t submit wines to two out of three of them (SF Chron and Spectator), so that is our excuse with them. We did submit Cab and Gewurtztraminer to the Enthusiast and scored 91 and 90 points respectively, and were totally thrilled regardless of not making their list. Given the historically restrained style of our wine, that favors structure and balance over ripeness and brawn, we have been hesitant to submit wines for mass judgings. Big, bold, high-alcohol wines can dominate the palate, and in a mass tasting where judges taste many California wines at a time, the nuances of more structured wines can get lost. The endorsement of our friends and customers has been enough. Keith and Anne however have been making wines in recent vintages that represent a slight but clear evolution in our style. The structure is still there, but there is also undeniable intensity with freshness and rich mouth-feel. The change is enough for us to try submitting our wines to mass tastings. We started conservatively with the Enthusiast in 2011 and based on that success will expand the effort next year.
We did make one ‘best of list’ in 2011, that of Sub Pop Records staff picks of top 10 wines of 2011. It is a dream come true. Okay, that is a stretch, because I had no clue they would list wine as a category. But I can say unequivocally that had anyone given me the option in 1992, as I was starting out in the family business, thrilled by the nature of wine, our family’s legacy, the approachability of our wine community, and put off by what I saw as the general elitism of the wine establishment, I would have put a shout-out by Sub Pop way higher on my aspirational list than any wine publication. Based in Seattle, Sub Pop was the record company for many of the bands that framed my universe at the time, not to mention provided the soundtrack to long work days in the cellar. Most famous among them was Nirvana, but there was also Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Jesus and Mary Chain, 5Style and many more. On my very first visit to Seattle, 1995ish, I went straight to their retail store and bought 10 discs, 9 from Sub Pop artists I'd never heard of, trusting they knew what they were doing. Things have changed a bit since. Sub Pop still releases great music, though their greatest successes are with less loud bands like Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine, and while we still make great wine, it is in the context of a wine establishment that I am generally proud to be a part of. But it is clear that things haven’t changed that much. When I heard that at the bottom of their compilation of staff best-of music picks for 2011 (see it here), there was a wine list that Gundlach Bundschu was on, I jumped up and down like it was 1992. Glad I didn’t pull out my back.