Sonoma Valley

Merlot can have a reputation for being soft and wimpy, but the Merlot from Rhinefarm takes on a robust personality. It is distinctively dark and weighty with aromas and and flavors of blueberries, black tea and cocoa and spice box.


At Gundlach Bundschu, we love Sonoma Merlot. During its dark days following the movie Sideways (remember that classic one liner which sent ripples through wine communities), this downtrodden grape had to valiantly defend itself for years. Well, it’s back! And better than ever on Rhinefarm. This classic Bordeaux varietal is one of the most versatile that exists; it can grow under many different situations, changing personality depending on whether it’s grown in a warm climate or cold. We have both climates on our estate, where we enjoy spicy, red fruit and tannin from the cooler areas and the warmer areas offer black fruit flavors and lushness to the midpalate. These varied flavor profiles allow us a unique opportunity to create a rich, layered wine, much like a chef who has the universe of spices to create a vision. In our Sonoma Valley Merlot, no one characteristic or texture is dominant and they coalesce deliciously. Our Merlots can age up to ten years quite gracefully.


Our Merlot vineyards are located in three different areas on Rhinefarm. The 36 acre La Paz section of the estate includes plantings from 1976 and has a soil profile of shallow Rhyolitic volcanic ash, typical of the alluvial fans that comprise the lower Mayacamas Range. With its southwest facing slopes, the site receives optimum sunlight and temperatures. Merlot planted on the lowland portions of Rhinefarm enjoys the cooling fog benefits from the San Pablo Bay to the south and the Petaluma Gap to the west. These blocks contribute structure and mineral notes along with forward red fruit and cherry flavors, while mid-level blocks provide spice and classic plum, complementing the warmer bench sites’ darker fruit character, breadth and lushness on the palate.

Our Sonoma Merlot blocks are hand harvested in the cool morning hours and enjoy a three to five day cold soak before fermentations with a combination of native yeasts and the D254 strain. We obtain flavor and color extraction through gentle pumpovers that are tailored by lot, using louvers and screens to eliminate pumping skins and seeds. Post fermentation, we stir the lees for three months to further develop flavors and aromas. The wine spends an average of 17 months in 100% French oak, 40% new barrels, before being released.

Pairing Riffs

At Gundlach Bundschu, we make great wine but also like to have a little fun. Here are some alternative ways to enjoy our Sonoma Valley Merlot:

  • With Frank Sinatra tunes
  • Paired with meatballs and reruns of the Sopranos
  • With braised red meats (think short ribs)
  • With anything resembling pasta and red sauce
  • Serve blind to your wine snob friends who still think all Merlot is wimpy
  • Herb roasted chicken with mushroom duxelles
  • A wine for simple grilled burgers or roasted pork loin with mushroom sauce
  • Cheese pairings: Monterey Jack, Gouda, aged Cheddar


Wine Type:
Red Wine
Varietal Composition:
  • 80% Merlot
  • 7% Petit Verdot
  • 6% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 6% Malbec
Sonoma Valley
TA 0.54
Barrel Aging:
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