Jim Bundschu is the quintessential down-to-earth farmer, completely devoted to the Sonoma County vineyard land cultivated by four generations before him. Growing up on Gundlach Bundschu Winery’s Rhinefarm, he was so mesmerized by his walk through the vineyards on his way to school that he never doubted he would carry on his family’s tradition. Today he still works closely with his son, Jeff Bundschu, who serves as president.

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture economics, Bundschu returned to the winery to undertake the most important project it had seen in decades.

Since 1933 the winery had been closed due to Prohibition, and the grapes grown at Rhinefarm were sold to other wineries. In 1969, Jim Bundschu began the four-year project of fully replanting the vineyard to premium varietal wine grapes. In 1970, Jim was named president of the resurrected Gundlach Bundschu Winery, and in 1973 the family celebrated the first crush of the new winery.

“My highest aim is to be a good farmer,” says Jim, “one who understands the subtle nuances involved in producing grapes for exceptional wines vintage after vintage, no matter what conditions Mother Nature might produce.”

Bundschu also maintains his connection with earlier generations by living in a stone house constructed in 1906 that overlooks the vineyards. When he’s not farming grapes he prefers to stay outdoors—fishing, skiing, backpacking, flying or playing baseball. If the weather keeps him inside, he finds equal pleasure in reading and playing his saxophone.