Jeff Bundschu is no stranger to the lure of the vine—as a sixth generation California vintner, wine has been in his family since 1858. Bundschu was raised on the family estate in Sonoma and was working in the vineyards by the time he was 12 years old.
Jeff attended college in Los Angeles, where he obtained a degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California. An intrepid explorer, he traveled extensively following graduation. In 1993, he returned to Sonoma Valley, surrendering to the powerful pull of the six-generation family business. Jeff had worked in the cellar and in the vineyards during his teenage years and college, so he knew his way around the winery. His next step was to learn sales and marketing working the national market. This experience convinced him the wine industry needed to expand its outreach to bring relevancy to a larger portion of the population, leading him to co-found The Wine Brats, an organization focused on educating a new generation of wine consumers.
In a circumstance unique to traditional family businesses, Jeff was appointed President of Gundlach Bundschu Winery in 2001, at the age of 33. His father Jim had similarly taken the reins at a young age, convincing his father to redefine the estate vision to meet the opportunities and challenges of the day. And so Jim handed control to Jeff, who set out to achieve a vision of Gundlach Bundschu as fulfilling its potential to be the best Estate Winery in Sonoma County.
Over the next ten years, Jeff eliminated all non-estate vineyards, cut production by more than half, replanted over 60% of the estate, and overhauled the approach to winegrowing and winemaking. With superb vineyards and a talented team of employees, he is excited about the future of the estate. “Each generation of my family that has stood on this dirt felt compelled to looking at the vines and wines with a fresh eye. Our winery’s evolution is destined—families evolve. Land evolves. Plants evolve. Palates evolve.”
Equally important to Bundschu is the preservation of the open-minded and spirited culture with which the winery has long been associated. “Our life here at Gundlach Bundschu, with its wine and good people, has always been about laughter, hard work, enjoying the inspiration that comes from being in such a beautiful place, and sharing what we have with our friends and neighbors.”
Jeff makes his home in Sonoma with his wife Elizabeth and their two children. You can keep up with Jeff on twitter @sonojeff