This letter to you WOMers is being written early in December, anticipating the joyous yet sometimes stressful days most of us experience leading up to Christmas Day. What better time to reflect on the comparable sanity of Thanksgiving, and oh yes, the joys of Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer with turkey.
Thanks in great part to you WOMers, more cases of Gewurztraminer left our wine cellar this Thanksgiving than ever before. Thank you. Difficult to say whether it was Jeff Bundschu’s turkey skits on YouTube (visit www.gunbun.com/turkeylove if you have not yet seen them,) a focused marketing campaign directed to our distributors, a great score from the Wine Enthusiast, or the best sales tool of all—word of mouth from people like you. Likely this success was a combination of all the above.
Hurrah for Gewurztraminer! However it happened, we celebrate more converts to this versatile varietal. Because it is a difficult varietal to grow, difficult to say and remember, and too often vinified sweet, it is frequently overshadowed by other, more familiar whites.
As you WOMers know well, a dry, spicy gewürztraminer is one of the friendliest food wines around – and not just with turkey. And yet we often hear restaurateurs and wine shop buyers tell us they personally love the wine, but claim their customers aren’t open to trying it. Some of those buyers aren’t giving their customers enough credit. But we recently heard a great story about a fellow who really is listening to his customers.
Some weeks before Thanksgiving, the manager of the prestigious Beachcomber Resort in Clearwater, Florida was shopping for interesting and unusual wines to serve his guests at their Thanksgiving meal. He asked all the wine representatives who called on him to submit likely samples. Our sales representative suggested Gun Bun Gewurztraminer for the white. The manager was not familiar with it but upon tasting it, he loved it and immediately selected it for his menu.
He began to have doubts almost as soon as the sales rep left. Would his sophisticated clientele be disappointed that there was no Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc on the table, wines with which they were more familiar? Perhaps he should call tomorrow and change his order.
But Bacchus is on our side. Friends of Gundlach Bundschu happened to be having dinner at the Beachcomber. In conversations with their waiter, they mentioned they were from Sonoma; the manager overheard this and approached their table. When he learned they were grape growers in the Sonoma Valley, he mentioned he had just selected a Sonoma Valley wine to feature for Thanksgiving. Oh really, which one, they asked. The manager explained it was a dry gewürztraminer with a difficult German family name, and right there in the wine cellar, the friends taught the manager the 'Gun Lock Bun Shoe' dance. They reassured him that his guests would love the wine, that many would know it and the rest would appreciate being introduced to it. So the manager stuck to his Guns and we have since learned it was a great success for him.
Hurrah for friends! Getting the word out is the hardest part of being a small family winery, and we know and appreciate that you WOMers help spread the word about us, perhaps more than anyone. We know how creative you all are too, so we invite you to help us with our next video campaign.
We had so much fun making the Turkey Loves Gewurz videos, and they proved to be a useful tool for our distributor salespeople to promote this unsung varietal. So next year, we plan to make more of them – not just for gewürztraminer, but for merlot, cab and chard as well. We invite you to send us your concepts for a 2 minute video. You can leave comments here, or email our Marketing Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we choose to use your ideas, we’ll determine some appropriate prize.
Happy Holidays everyone.
Quietly hiking alone through a Northern California first growth redwood grove surrounded by stately trees hundreds of years old, it is easy to drift away in one’s thoughts. I wonder who has wandered here before me, experiencing this same awe and respect; whoever they may have been, we are now connected. These timeless trees have gathered us together as one.
By now you are likely wondering what has this guy been smoking, or more likely, has he downed two bottles of GB Zinfandel quickly and alone? What do redwood trees have to do with the Tales of Rhinefarm letter?
While ‘only’ being 153 years old, our family vineyard and winery has also had many visitors hike among the vines and pass beneath the cellar arch. Many feel connected to the spirit of the place – not fast, not new, not franchised, but rather authentic, reflecting and respecting the 152 prior years, yet hip enough to current reality to be enticing. Many people connect with this place, and are thereby connected to one another. And sometimes, the connections are truly amazing.
Three sisters called the winery earlier this year to relate that they had in their possession two rare old bottles of Gundlach Bundschu wine, found while cleaning out their late parents’ home. The sisters correctly believed that the current Gundlach Bundschu family would enjoy having these antique bottles to display. An appointment was made to visit Jim Bundschu, who gladly met them in the tasting room, unaware of the historical enchantment about to unfold.
The sisters arrived promptly, accompanied by an old family friend of theirs, who happened to be the younger brother of a High School classmate of Jim’s – the first of such surprises to come.
The sisters presented Jim with two bottles; a 1902 Rodensteiner (made from the Traminer grape) and a non-vintage Cabinet Riesling, with labels and tax stamps in mint condition.
A lively discussion ensued, attempting to discern the age of the Cabinet Riesling, which is not vintage dated. Jim pointed out the lithographer’s name, barely legible at the margin of the label; Louis Roesch Litho Co, SF, and explained the winery can sometimes estimate the age of a bottle by identifying the printer of the label. For example, many years ago Jim met a man named Max Schmidt who started his printing company in San Francisco literally across the street from the old Gundlach Bundschu warehouse on Bryant Street (both buildings burned in the 1906 fire). He helped Jim confirm that his company, Schmidt Litho, had printed the winery’s labels from 1901 – 1905, so it is possible this bottle is older than that.
The sisters’ mouths were agape. They exclaimed that their grandparents were good friends of the Schmidt family, they’d lived across the street from one another in Berkeley.
The sisters explained their family once farmed grapes in Los Gatos, CA, in the heart of what is today Silicon Valley. One produced a laptop, proclaiming she had restored a video filmed in the 1930s of their great-grandfather harvesting grapes at his hillside vineyard. Jim tried to feign enthusiasm for what he expected would be a grainy, herky-jerky home movie. He was soon genuinely enthralled, watching footage obviously shot by a pioneer film professional that could easily have been a scene from Rhinefarm during the same era.
The extraordinary film ended, and sadly the sisters began to pack up. They were on their way to look for their childhood summer home across the valley in Glen Ellen. They explained that their parents had sold the home back in the 1950s to a Dr Whiteside. Now it was Jim’s turn to gape – Dr. Whiteside had been his dentist for decades before he retired a few years back.
Accompanying the group back to their car, he asked one of the sisters who had mentioned she works in the Santa Cruz city government whether she might by chance know a Judge Stevenson, an old fraternity brother. Know him?! She exclaimed, he’s a good friend, our families vacation together!
At that point, a gentle breeze rustled the branches overhead in the old redwood grove.
What do New Orleans, Boston, Memphis, Charleston, Chicago and now Austin all have in common? Gundlach Bundschu WOMers have reveled in each city and brought them to their knees – or is it vice versa? If Austin is an example, it is the latter. Your fellow adventurous WOMers have just returned from a sold-out trip to the Texas capital having celebrated together the joys of Bacchus and camaraderie.
We first rendezvoused at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel on a Thursday afternoon. Upon checking in we were handed an envelope which contained instructions to the first event. “We are meeting at the Continental Club at 5:30, take a cab or walk only six blocks away.” WOMer queen Kathy’s GPS was evidently malfunctioning for the distance was more like a mile and a half. But Bacchus was smiling. If it had been a typical hot Austin afternoon we would likely had WOMers resigning their memberships, but instead a cool breeze accompanied them along the easy trail.
The Continental Club is a classic; an authentic roadhouse which arguably provides one of Austin’s most authentic music venues. Name an old line country and western or blues performer and they have been there. Jeff Bundschu greeted us all, and we greeted each other, shook off the day’s trail dust with Merlot, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé and plenty of southwestern appetizers. The first gathering of any Revel is always a combination of experienced WOMer Revelers catching up accompanied with the introduction of first timers. Quite soon, with wine and gentle coaxing from Jeff, other Bundschus and staff, everyone “knows” one another.
A few short hours later, we walked en masse across the street to America’s most famous boot and western wear emporium: Allen’s Boots. The store stayed open just for us WOMers and even allowed GunBunners to be served and enjoy wine among the racks and racks of boots. Multiply the distinct smell of a brand-new, leather-upholstered car by ten and that’s the way it smelled inside Allen’s. Ever respectful, WOMers spilled nary a drop. Many WOMers walked out with a new pair of boots. Who would have thought, cowboys and fine wine?
Nine a.m. the next morning, we met in the hotel lobby and were divided into groups for Jeff’s annual WOMer competition: a timed zigzag race trough the streets of downtown Austin with city landmarks as check points. Each of these places having to be attended by the entire team; no cheating! All teams arrived at the finish line approximately at the same time except for Jeff’s. Seems he zagged rather than zigged and ended up in the state capital building which in fact was not one of our intended landmarks.
Dazed and confused, they at last arrived at the finish line, just in time to board the two buses that took us on a trail through the outskirts of Austin. We drove into rural, brush covered hills and arrived at the famous Texas barbeque house, “The Salt Lick.” It is a destination restaurant established on an old Texas ranch. Recently vineyards have been planted adjacent to the restaurant, a comforting backdrop for WOMers. Sumptuous quantities of barbequed ribs, chicken, sausages, baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer were served with enough time to sit back, sip and chat. Towards the meal’s end the third generation owner of “The Salt Lick” presented a spirited historical review of the restaurant, beginning with his grandfather cooking for local cowboys over a campfire on this spot up to the recent addition of vineyards and wine.
Tables were then pushed aside and a pretty, petite dance instructor appeared and announced we were about to learn how the dances of Texas. The great thing about WOMers is that they are up for most anything, so after digesting a rather bountiful meal along with ample wine, they charged the dance floor. Some were excellent students, some not so good, but none lacked enthusiasm. After instructions, we were divided into our teams once more for a team dance off. What ensued was no “Dancing with the Stars,” but at least there were no broken bones. Finally, we all cooled off under some large spreading oaks and listened to the restaurant’s winemaker discuss grape growing and wine making in the hill country of Texas. As he spoke, we enjoyed his wine.
We traveled back to Austin, and everyone had a free evening to experience the joys of the city. Some of us walked out to the South Congress Avenue Bridge to witness the well publicized nightly flight of bats. We were a bit skeptical, but there they were -- an endless ribbon of six million pairs of flashing wings beating into the night sky. A study revealed they consume twenty four tons of insects each night, thereby making them Austin’s favorite pets.
Eleven Thirty Saturday morning found us all gathered at the respected Paggi House for a formal four course lunch with accompanying Gundlach Bundschu wines selected by Executive Chef Ben Huselton. We do this at each Revel, and this chef hit a grand slam. Many WOMer ooooh’s and ahhhh’s were heard as each course was enjoyed. As good as the wine and food was, the highlight of the meal for many occurred when Jeff revealed that the 2011 winner of the annual Gundlach Bundschu poetry contest resided nearby and was a guest at the lunch. Jeff coaxed her into reciting her poem. A bit nervous at first, and rightfully so, as it was towards the end of the feast and given the considerable amount of wine enjoyed, the decibel level of conversation was no doubt daunting. But bravely she proceeded; after the first two lines and until her final word, you could have heard a pin drop. The poem about Rhinefarm and the Bundschu family was that good.
We adjourned the meal and headed to the bus, having been previously instructed by Jeff at “the Salt Lick,” to bring a change of clothes to the Paggi House for our afternoon’s adventure. He suggested hippie motif, fairy wings, tie dye, sparkles, etc. We were whisked away to Eeyore’s (yes, Winnie the Pooh’s pal) Birthday Party, held annually in Austin Park. Yikes! Two o three thousand celebrants, some clothed, others simply painted entirely silver or gold. Large drum circles, hoola hoop teams, ragamuffin little kids. And in the middle of it all was the Gundlach Bundschu tent serving chilled Gewürztraminer to the by now bug-eyed WOMers. Only a hardy few stayed until the last returning bus.
Back at the hotel, most took a short nap in preparation for the final evening, A short stroll down sixth street to the Iron Cactus bar and restaurant for a southwestern buffet and more Gundlach Bundschu wine, followed by speeches extolling WOMer fidelity, lots of hugs, and the eager “where are we going next year” questions (to be announced at the Harvest Party in September). Jeff had one final surprise: wrist bands to get us into the famous Parrish Club several doors down Sixth Avenue. Performing that night was “Joan as a Police Woman.” Unfortunately for Jeff, he never heard her sing but acted on the recommendation of a trusted friend. Most of us agreed Joan would have been a better cop than singer. Oh well, you never know unless you go. We went, we left, and Joan has become a part of WOMer legend -- a history that is beginning to fill binders.
A word of advice for those of you who have read this far: two buses are all that we will ever take on a WOMer Revel. The number of people is manageable allowing both enough flexibility to find a variety of adventures and for WOMers to get to know one other. So make sure to sign up early for next year!
P.S. - Plenty of photographic evidence is available on our Facebook page
The business definition of marketing: the process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.
Though the marketing of wine is rife with rigors and stress, it will not likely appear anytime soon on tv’s ‘Dirtiest Jobs’ shows.
After all, wine is considered by many (though not you WOMers) to be a luxury item, right up there with Versace, Chanel #5 and hand-made fly fishing rods.
When comparing the marketing requirements for such products with wine marketing, one soon discovers wine is thankfully in a unique category. Haute couture requires acquiescing to the well-documented pressures of Paris, Milan and New York runways. Chanel #5 requires the stamina of a circus barker, standing in front of the perfume salon at Saks squirting the coveted scent on the jewelry encircled wrists of high society. And fly rods? You must stand thigh deep in an icy mountain stream with a tobacco spitting guide who pretends to hope you catch a fish so he can claim the rod is worth the price.
Then there is wine marketing. The dauntless task often calls on the shoulders of the hapless winery owner.
Oh the hardships encountered! Take for example ‘Taste of Vail’ happening April 7-9. It is a symbiotic marketing relationship between the ski resort, Vail Valley restaurants and wineries from around the world, shamelessly marketing their wares to happy attendees. It can become a real drag for winery representatives, what with the free lift tickets, rental skis and room discounts dangled before them. The lamb & pinot noir tasting event held outdoors in colorful booths lining the quaint streets of Vail Village; the outdoor picnic on top of Vail mountain, pouring wines and sharing food and laughter with enthusiastic guests, most still in their ski boots. Take a run down the mountain, then back up the lift to taste yet again; the Grand Gala, where beautifully attired après ski types wander among tablesby the exhausted wine marketer pouring the best from the cellar alongside Vail’s finest chefs offering up their favorite nibbles. All the while, a cover band plays adjacent to the dance floor, offering a respite from the burdens of tasting.
The poor, flummoxed wine marketer sucks it up, he (or she) is a trooper. He knows the year’s daunting work schedule lies before him, Vail is just the first. On to Taos soon for more of the same. Then the Aspen affair, followed by that challenging Caribbean wine cruise, or will this year be to the Greek islands? Summer is burdened with charity wine auctions, fall is marked by the Yosemite Valley wine dinner held at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge.
The mere anticipation of all these upcoming marketing opportunities sends the relentless wine marketer into a cold sweat. Yet he (or she) knows only too well that diligent focus and perseverance are the only path. No sense feeling sorry for oneself. Somebody has to do it.
January and February, when all about the cellar seems calmest, is surprisingly the period when the art of winemaking is most evident. If a painter is an artist because he or she can mix colors on a canvas to express themselves then so too is a winemaker an artist when they first sample young wine, mentally envisioning their finished product. At Gundlach Bundschu the goal of the winemakers is to bring to your table a wine that interests you: complex, balanced, and reflecting the land where the grapes were grown.
The other ten months of the year, the cellar is a beehive of activity, offering little time for quiet reflection. Spring—rack, rack, rack. Summer—bottle, bottle, bottle. Fall—crush, crush, crush. November and December—clean, clean, clean, then party, party, party (or sleep, sleep, sleep).
January and February, when the whole season is upside down, when it’s warmer in the barrel cave and the tasting room than it is out in the vineyard, is the time when winemakers display their intrinsic artistic abilities.
Come sit with me at our laboratory tasting table with Gundlach Bundschu winemakers Keith and Anne. During this morning’s session we will be evaluating samples of fresh wine from each Merlot block grown on Rhinefarm, seven glasses in all. Keith and Anne fill the glasses one quarter full, leaving plenty of room for the wine to display its youthful bouquet. There is an edge in the room’s atmosphere; all the effects rendered in the vineyard and cellar by both man and Mother Nature during the previous year’s vintage are represented in these glasses.
You observe the color of each glass. Swirl, sip, spit. You progress slowly, glass by glass, returning often to each glass for a re-taste. If you are an accomplished taster (and you must be, you’re a WOMER,) you will also evaluate other basic elements exhibited in each sip—fruit, tannin, acid, balance, and mouthfeel.
You finish your personal tasting and glance across the table at Keith and Anne. Their eyes are closed in concentration, and then they seem to stare off into space, reflecting on what they have encountered. They have gone inside themselves to a place only winemakers comprehend. The wines are a mere three months old, but the two can project the samples into the future to the time when you will joyfully be pulling the cork. How do their finely-tuned and well-practiced senses, the very same senses you possess, allow them to already be formulating a strategy for each sample? Blend Sample A with Sample C? Add a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Petit Verdot? What type of barrels will be best: newer, older, toasted, not toasted? How can they project your enjoyment and satisfaction from these first sips?
The skill of the winemaker is to be able to foresee how the wine will taste upon release. They must make all of these small yet crucially important decisions that will ultimately shape the finished product you will be tasting years from now, to decide which combinations best express the land, the grape, the vintage and the style of wines we wish to share with you.
The pleasure you feel from a bottle of Gundlach Bundschu is proof if the immense artistry of our winemakers Keith and Anne.
As you have heard by now, the 2010 vintage will go down as the most challenging growing season in Northern California since the phoenix-like revival of U.S. wine acceptance began in the early 1970s. The wines, by the way, have mostly turned out to be excellent.
There is a certain irony in what made 2010 challenging in that the cause of so much consternation was exactly what brings most grape growers the most joy – MOTHER NATURE.
Terrorists, war, politicians, business skullduggery, college tuition, all the usual suspects had nothing to do with our high stress levels in 2010. Instead it was our fate in dealing with our omnipotent hosts that caused growers to lose sleep and/or a portion of their grapes.
Yet upon reflection, this one grower believes there were more than enough positive contributions from our boss, Mother Nature, to counterbalance the economic loss most growers suffered. Take a few examples of his experiences throughout the season.
He and his wife live in a comfortable old farm house constructed in 1906. From every window, he sees his vines; cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and zinfandel. There is one particular window in the kitchen he considers his favorite. Located in front of the window is a small elevated coffee table on which sits a reading lamp. Two stools are all that will fit on the side of the table away from the window and they both allow an unobstructed view into the vineyard.
Upon close observance, shallow ruts worn into the hardwood floor can be seen under one of the stools. How many times has that stool been pushed to and from its place? Most mornings, the grower arises before dawn and brews a pot of fresh coffee. He sips from his favorite mug as he reads yesterday’s newspaper (today’s paper has yet to be delivered to his rural house). Every minute or so, he glances up and out the window towards his vines. Vine rows oriented as though he were sitting upon a military reviewing stand and his troops were passing before him. The rows run the distance of five soccer fields, terminating where the rising oak-covered terrain beneath Arrowhead Mountain becomes too steep to farm. He can see the entire length of eight rows from his vantage point. Anything within the confines of those rows can be observed. The peripheral rows become a blur of general grapevine canopy. But he can tell where the block of cabernet franc ends and merlot begins by different color shades reflected by leaves.
One cool spring dawn, just as fresh shoots were pushing from the dormant winter wood and before the cover crop was mowed, he observed in his eight rows two lean coyotes hunting as a team. They emerged from the oaks at the far end, advancing slowly towards his window. They marched, ears cocked, in perfect unison, five rows separating them. They never varied this pacing. They were hoping to catch a jack rabbit that was hiding the in the grass in the row centered between them.
All for naught. The two advanced within one hundred feet of the grower’s window before breaking off their patrol. He could feel their dejection.
The coolest growing season in the history of Sonoma Valley was jolted one day in August by a short heat wave. One day’s temperature shot from 54 to 106 degrees in six hours.
The grower looked up from his coffee and paper to observe a flock of wild turkeys assembled beneath the vines of his eight rows. Not an unusual occurrence, he sees turkeys quite often, but on this soon-to-be-hot day they were closer than normal to the house. Just beyond the window, the grower’s wife has planted a butterfly and humming bird attracting garden, in which sits a small fountain. Hummingbirds and song birds often dip in for a sip. The turkeys advanced en masse towards the fountain, approaching as though it was the last watering hole in the Serengeti, surrounded by lions. At last, one young hen jumped up and began to sip, a mere thirty feet from the window. One by one, he watched them all drink.
Later on, after all his grapes were harvested, he sat at the window reflecting upon the year. Would he be able to recover the year’s cost of growing fine wine grapes after what Mother Nature had done to him in 2010?
Because harvest was over, he took time to linger a bit over his coffee. Through the window as he was reflecting, subconsciously he was observing the many shades of yellows and reds throughout the vines. The sun began to rise over a thin layer of clouds, casting a pink hue. Before his eyes, his vineyard turned into a kaleidoscope of fall colors. He smiled inwardly as he poured another cup – this must be what ‘they’ refer to as ‘lifestyle’ in the vineyard business.
2010 vintage – cool, cool, cool; grape maturity, slow, slow, slow – boom! A single day in August 105F, sunburn on 10 to 30 percent of the berries exposed to the sun on the south side of vines (a small amount of the total). Then as a gift from Bacchus, the last week September and the first part of October, beautiful warm days and nights. Ah, sweet maturity of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Those are the characteristics of this year so far, as this is being written. Still to come, hopefully before November, are the Bordeaux varietals, along with Zinfandel and Tempranillo. If asked only three weeks ago a typical grape grower would bemoan this to be on the a terrible season – three weeks delayed harvest, sunburned grapes, late maturity, and the threat of rain. Now it could be turning into a great vintage! Because of the cool growing season, grape acid levels are higher then normal, and the berries explode with flavor; a balance that shows great potential for our wine. Fingers crossed.
In mid-september, here on Rhinefarm a throng of you wine club members along with some spirited Sonoma locals, helped GB celebrate its 153nd grape harvest by attending our annual harvest bash. We are usually well into the red grape harvest by the time of this annual party, this year we'd barely started our first blocks of gewurztraminer earlier in the week.
We did hear some lame excuses from those you not in attendance - too far to travel, I have a head ache, my mother-in-law is visiting, or the best, we just can not make it but we’ll pull a cork of a GB bottle and toast to a good crush.
Those of you who were here enjoyed an interesting morning in the vineyards learning the love and dedication to grape growing quality at Gundlach Bundschu, restful down time back in Sonoma Town, a celebratory meal served outside the back door of our wine cave overlooking Rhinefarm’s vines and Sonoma Valley, a perfect Sonoma Valley-Mediterranean evening, and oh yes, a full-out wig contest. (One constant about you members – when asked to participate in anyway no matter how wacky, you’re all in! Thank you!)
By the time the parade of wigs before the judges occurred, it was dark, the runway lighting was inadequate, the runway narrow, the stairs up to the runway narrower yet (and steep), and errant wig-hair obscured the judges’ vision. Nothing however dampened the enthusiasm for the wig parade and members strutted with abandon. GB was right to double its personal liability insurance for the party. (Thankfully it was not needed.)
Back through the cave to the harvest dance in the courtyard featuring the Wonderbread 5 – Northern California’s premier cover dance band. (They are known for their outlandish stage wigs, and for making it impossible for anyone to stand still to their music,). Wigged members, local Sonomans and the Gundlach Bundschu family danced mostly straight through, leaving the floor only long enough to replenish wine glasses. Wigs were flying, i.e. changing heads mid-dance.
So began the harvest. By now you’ll no doubt have read on blogschu about two other significant occurrences this harvest which I will mention briefly. One, how Gundlach Bundschu became the first winery in Sonoma County and the third in the U.S. (after Opus One and Dominus in Napa) to employ a newly invented optical grape berry sorter. Cameras attached to a computer, compare each berry’s shape, size and color, to standards set by our winemaker so that what is undesirable is sorted from premium berries.
The second is a rare sad occurrence here on Rhinefarm, in this case extremely sad for all of us, the sudden passing of Gundlach Bundschu’s 49 year-old National Sales Manager, Tommy Howard. He was a true and gifted Bacchus disciple, as many of you know personally from meeting Tommy at our Revels and most recently the harvest celebration.
The 2010 harvest has been an exciting, yet sad season on Rhinefarm. We will not soon forget it. Our work is far from over, and we will continue to update you on the vintage’s progress online.
Some fellow members were gathered last week inside the famous Second City Theater in Chicago, the home of improvisation, the very theater that has fermented nearly every Saturday Night Live luminary comedian that you know.
The theater seats were filled exclusively with nervous WOMers, anxiously awaiting their turn to go up on stage and perform. They sat watching a small band of their fellow Revelers perform a skit spontaneously created mere minutes before the performance.
Suddenly, an orange hit the stage floor, dropped discreetly from the rear of a pretend WOMer horse (you had to be there); it slowly rolled out of the spotlight, disappearing into the shadows.
The laughter that erupted in the theater must certainly have made Bacchus smile; the Fifth Annual Gundlach Bundschu Member Revel was again honoring his heritage.
We all gathered Thursday evening at the Illinois Institute of Art for a welcoming reception to meet Edward Karl Fresa, the artist whose work is on our 26th Vintage Reserve label, who personally autographed bottles for all who patiently waited in line. The room was small, the wine flowed, the WOMers were raucous even on this first night, and the noise level was comfortably loud. But every 15 min, the noise was LOUD. The Art Institute is located beneath Chicago’s famous elevated Loop train, just like the nearby produce market depicted in Karl’s label painting honoring Chicago. As the El rumbled overhead, conversations halted, to be picked up mid-sentence as the train passed along.
Jeff Bundschu greeted all and imparted the Revel mantra – PACE YOURSELVES – then instructed the group to meet in the banquet hall of the Amalfi hotel at 8am to sign release forms. Revel itineraries are held secret as long as possible, and the group was left to wonder all night what they’d gotten themselves into for the morning.
Not a member was late. We signed our Bobby’s Bike Tours release forms (the print was exceedingly small for some bleary-eyed Revelers) and off we all rode. It was a crisp, clear, blue-skied morning, with a slight breeze and none of the threatening clouds from the day before. Bacchus smiling again? The few who couldn’t ride for various reasons accompanied us in rickshaws. On Lake Shore Park’s jogging and cycling trail, we traveled up to Old Town and the Gold Coast, stopping at Lincoln Park, St. Michael’s cathedral and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. It is customary that wherever Revels are held, WOMers should experience the area’s history as much as possible.
A casual lunch mid-trip at the historic Northstar Park eatery along with wine, for once in moderation because we still had two miles of the journey to navigate, was enjoyed by all.
We returned to the point of the beginning. No one had been run over. A few crashes were with the ground only. The release forms were not needed.
It was then that we loaded onto three busses to be transported to Second City. Another complete surprise. Each WOMer was part of a group, and each group was assigned a skit theme: creating a trailer for a story in a given genre, i.e. coming of age, Sci-Fi, horror, western. The bike tour was comfortably physically tiring, but preparing and performing the skits was mentally taxing to most. Watching them was great entertainment.
After the day’s exertions, well-deserved gewürztraminer, pinot noir and merlot were served on the busride back to the hotel, where a wine reception was being held for all. Revelers were on their own for the evening and were instructed to reconvene at noon for a formal lunch and wine tasting at Kinzie’s Chop House, located in another of Chicago’s historic buildings.
Left to their own whims, Revelers enjoyed various modes of Chicago’s nightlife. One group taxied all the way out to Roses on the South Side to hear ‘Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials. Another group, comprised of three couples who met on prior Revels, decorated a roll of toilet paper with a face, lipstick and hair. It accompanied them everywhere they went, a take of on the ubiquitous traveling ceramic gnome from commercials. They introduced it to and photographed it with everyone they encountered: bartenders, servers, homeless people, taxi drivers. Perhaps this does lose something in translation, but when enjoying the joys of Bacchus, everything seems funnier.
The mid-day meal at Kinzie’s was a fine example of slow dining, albeit a somewhat raucous one. Gundlach Bundschu 08 Chardonnay, 07 Pinot Noir, 03 and 07 Cabernet Sauvignon helped the flow.
We were instructed during dessert that we were to reconvene at La Salle Power Inc, a short walk from the hotel, and that we should dress to impress.
Turns out the building was the historically preserved La Salle Street Power Company building, converted to three stories of restaurant/dance clubs, each floor having a different theme. Revelers had the top floor reserved for a private buffet dinner and dancing until 10pm, when the floor opened to the general public. The only problem was at 10pm, the Revelers were still packed on the dance floor with little chance for newcomers to find space! The blues band was awesome, and the Revelers even more so. Nancy Bundschu said it best – WOMers are a wonderful group, and when they get together for a Revel, the children in all resurfaces.
As an aside, this Revel was happily filled to capacity months in advance, with 80 members. Any more, and we could not maintain the Revel standards for finding interesting venues and creating meaningful connections. It is rumored that we will next Revel in Austin, TX in 2011. To experience childlike delights again under the auspices of Bacchus and your fellow WOMers, be sure to sign up early.