Safely returned from our 5,000 mile odyssey, broke, and homeless, or rather, tasting-room-less, we have hit upon a cunning plan to revive our fading fortunes; a pop-up tasting! Of course we can’t really do that, it would be illegal. One can’t just go around pouring wine. What do you think this is- the E.U.?! However, we can welcome you, our old friends, to a party with Lenora of Big Sur and Anna Marie of Idle Hour this Sunday December 11 from 2-5 PM, at the Big Sur tasting room in Carmel Valley. There will be live music, delicious Big Sur and Idle Hour wines to taste and buy, and Bunter Spring will be there to pour and take orders for shipping or local delivery. Oh, and we have a Holiday Sale! Win, win, win.
- We closed the tasting room July 1, 2022.
- We have removed the Napa syrah vineyard so Dad Arnie can retire.
- We have returned to our old website, after the Vinebase online sales platform website disaster.
- We are still in business, making and selling wine, with purchased grapes, as always. The 2022 Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc are nearly dry, and looking good. We have 2021 Pinot noir and Syrah aging safely in nice, very expensive barrels. Our 2019 Syrah and Pinot are bottled, and will be release when they are ready to drink.
- We are going on a road trip for October, bringing Hippie Syrah to The People!
- We will be back in CA, and back in the wineshipping game, by Nov 8.
It has been a hell of a ride, the last few years. Thanks for sticking with us. We are very grateful for all of our friends and customers who helped us through. With some luck we have many vintages ahead of us. We will stop trying to make great wine the day we stop drinking it, that’s a promise!
Mark and Margaret
Great news! Bunter Spring has resumed tasting room operations. Our Carmel Valley tasting room is open Friday through Sunday 11-5 PM. We are open the rest of the week by appointment. Since we work often in Napa, at the winery and vineyard, we are not always available, so please call in advance if possible. Your hosts are fully vaccinated. The tasting fee is $20 per person for six wines, with crackers and cheese. The tasting fee is waived with a two bottle purchase. Tasting is free to wine club members as per our Wine Club policy. Call Mark at (202) 744-1343 for an appointment. We would love to see you!
THE BAD NEWS
Our Carmel Valley tasting room remains closed to the public. We have created an outdoor tasting area and soon should have that operating, pending licensing. Until then, tasting is available to Wine Club members only, one small group at a time, by appointment. We are very sorry for this situation, but your safety, and ours, must come before commerce and conviviality.
THE GOOD NEWS
These are tough times. We are lowering the price of all wines during the pandemic. Until further notice, Wine Club gets 30% off all purchases, 35% off 12 bottle case sales.
Public– 20% off, 25% off 12 bottle case purchases.
We will be very glad when the pandemic is past and we can jack our prices back up!
This vintage has been a real bummer. Bunter Spring lost its Monterey production space when our landlord sold to another winery, the tasting room in Carmel Valley has been closed since March because of Covid, and fires across California ruined much of the state’s winegrape harvest, especially in the areas where we work, Napa and Monterey. Fortunately, I guess, the impending loss of our Monterey location caused us to cancel our planned 2020 grape purchases and make no new commitments. So, at least we avoided having tons of smoke-ruined 2020 fruit to deal with. We bottled all of the 2018 reds and 2019 whites, and moved the 2019 Pinot Noir barrels up to our little Napa winery. We were looking for a new central coast home when a series of catastrophic fires started in Monterey County and quickly ended that search.
Our own Napa vineyard was uncertainly affected by smoke from the Hennessey fire in August. We would have tested the grapes for smoke taint to know whether of not to make wine, but laboratory capacity was so overwhelmed, the $150 test for smoke taint that usually takes three days was backlogged three months! Then I read that one of the two compounds used as markers to identify smoke taint, guaiacol, occurs naturally in Syrah, at rates many times higher (20-40 parts per billion) than that associated with smoke taint (0.5 ppb). Syrah is different in many ways, from a winemaker’s perspective, and that explains part of it. Our Syrah normally is harvested for red wine in October. Since we couldn’t know how badly our grapes were tainted, if at all, we decided to harvest early, in September, for rosé. Our crop was about half of normal. With our old basket press, yields are low, especially with white and rosé, as you press the grapes BEFORE fermentation. We did have major muscle from son Joe and Bro-in-Common-Law Bob to put a serious squeeze on what grapes we got. We nevertheless don’t have much 2020 to worry about. Rosé entails minimal skin contact which reduces any smoke taint, and if the wine is bad, you find out soon and dump it early, compared to red wine. So far the wine seems fine.
A couple weeks after our early harvest, while all our neighbors’ cabernet was still far from ripe, the Glass fire started near St. Helena. It burned part or all of several Napa area wineries to the ground, scorched dozens of vineyards, and the smoke it created ruined any grapes still in the field. So again, I guess we were “lucky”.
Any good news we have is NOT from 2020. There are some promising 2019s coming up. The sauv blanc and orange wine from Santa Cruz are daring- we harvested earlier than ever before, to get high natural acidity for drinking with shellfish and shrimp. The sauv blanc is a ringer for Sancerre. Our ’19 estate Syrah is perfectly balanced and intensely varietal, again leaning toward a European version of the grape. It will spend another year or so in barrel. Carmel Valley Palisades 2019 pinot noir will be bottled this spring. It reminds me of our 2013 Sonoma Coast pinot. We made some excellent Monterey reds in 2018: a pinot noir from Carmel valley, another from Santa Lucia Highlands, and some zin, cab sauv, and cab franc from a “sleeper” vineyard hidden in the hills high above Arroyo Seco. These follow distinctive 17 cab sauv and cab franc from a fifty year-old organic vineyard in Carmel Valley. We have plenty of good wine for the short term. We will need to make some whites in ’21 to go with our estate Syrah, and whatever other red grapes we buy.
Going forward, with so much uncertain, we will focus on expanding our estate vineyard in Napa. Growing your own grapes gives you a lot of control over the quality and style of the wine you make. You can harvest early if fires require it. We will choose varieties with a mind to the frequency of drought, unusual spring weather, summer hot spells, and fires. That means less cabernet sauvignon, which ripens late and makes poor rosé, more grenache, cabernet franc, and whites. The syrah, planted in the early 90s, seemed like a mistake with the ascendancy of Napa cab, but turned out to be accidental genius. Get lucky, adapt, or die! That’s the New Napa.
As a consumer, you should approach 2020 California wines with caution.The cheap central valley grapes were probably OK, so <$10 wine drinkers are cool, as always. Low standard, easy to meet. There’s nothing to burn in the desert, right? Be careful with more expensive 2020s from the coastal areas. Except (maybe) our rosé!
The 2018 vintage is looking good, with good yields on all but the Santa Cruz Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. It was a cool, moderate summer, with none of the hot spells that usually occur. That is good, but meant for a later than normal harvest, as we had to wait for the high acids in the fruit to go down. As grapes mature, color, pH and flavor generally go up, and acids go down. So as a rule our 2018s had either high acid or high sugar, which ferments into higher alcohol. The 2018 whites are high acid, low alcohol, the reds high alcohol. Every year is a challenge in one way or another. We have it good in California. This year was an unmitigated disaster for the Mid-Atlantic, with a cloudy wet summer capped off by hurricane- induced deluges right at harvest time. I made wine for two years in Virginia, and I feel their pain.
New for us this year is Pinot Noir from Carmel Valley, which oddly is not Carmel Valley (when they created the AVA most of the vineyards were actually in the neighboring valley, Cachagua). More oddly, it was the last fruit we harvested. Pinot is usually the first red to come in. We are making our first Zinfandel ever (I made it for many vintages as a hired gun), and Syrah, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc from Highlands Vineyard, in the mountains between Carmel Valley and Arroyo Seco. These are all through fermentation and they are big, ripe wines- outside our normal milieu. Let’s see how we do. Our estate organic Syrah was a little tamer, but still ripe. As with 2017, the lower three rows, late to ripen, were harvested later and fermented after carbonic maceration, to reduce the acidity. It adds a fruity bubble gum aroma, think Beaujolais Nouveau, which is made that way. If I can find time to bottle, the 2017 Carbonic Syrah is ready to drink. Maybe it will be bottled in time for Thanksgiving!
Visitors to the Bunter Spring Winery tasting room often tell us how beautiful our tulip label is and ask why we chose it for our wine. We usually top up their glass and tell them about our springtime wedding and the thousands of tulips planted the winter before our ceremony by Margaret’s brother Justin and their friends – perfectly timed for our wedding day.
These tulips first inspired a set of fanciful red and white labels (below) for our wedding wine – designed by Margaret’s college friend, Mary Hart.
The following year, when we decided to launch Bunter Spring Winery, it seemed entirely natural to to use Mary’s beautiful painting on our wine.
Mary Hart is an accomplished artist who lives in Portland, Maine, and is currently a visiting professor of art at Bowdoin College. Mary’s bio
We love Mary’s work not only because she is our friend, but also because of her deep and enduring connection with the natural world.
Her philosophy and attention to detail closely reflects our approach to winemaking: creating wines that are the simplest expression of nature and place. We hope you will take the time to visit her website to see her work and, better yet, visit a gallery where you can see it in person. Mary’s portfolio
Among other locations, Mary’s artwork has been exhibited at Aucocisco Gallery in Portland, ME, the Portland Museum of Art, The Trustman Gallery at Simmons College in Boston, MA, and the Dunedin Fine Arts Center in Dunedin, FL. She has received grants to support her work from the Artist Resource Trust and the Maine Arts Commission, and artist residencies at Yaddo, SMCC, and La Dogana in Italy.
Since launching the winery, we have used different colors for each of our grape varieties and wines: Red for our Bordeaux-style blends and Cabernets; Yellow for our Chardonnays; White for our Sauvignon Blancs; Orange for our Pinot Noirs; and purple for our Primitivos. We like the “bouquet” effect as it reminds of the day those tulips came up back in 2007!
Harvest started again early this year, but it is lingering into mid-October, so Mark is as busy as ever. The wines are looking exceptionally good, including a new Monterey County Chardonnay, but more on that when it’s over and we can do a proper blog on all the wines in barrel.
In the meantime, the Monterey County Weekly stopped by and gave their own report on how things are going in Carmel Valley – and what a great place it is to visit — also their review of wines we are pouring now in the Bunter Spring Winery tasting room! Click here to read more.. Monterey County Weekly: Carmel Valley Gets a New Tasting Room
Spring has arrived on the Central Coast, and more visitors are coming up to Carmel Valley for the sunshine and warmth. We have some favorites we are pouring, like our 2014 Central Coast Kitchen Pink, a saignee rose that is perfect for patio sipping as the days get longer.
We’ve got a terrific 2015 red blend from Paso Robles getting ready for labeling, and adding to our popular 2014 Santa Cruz Fume Blanc, we are getting ready to bottle our 2015 Fume Blanc.
And as we get ready to release our 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, we have a terrific sale on our 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir– $15.00 per bottle, $100 a case. You can’t beat that, as Pinot Noir goes with everything.
Have a fantastic spring season and come visit! We are open 1-6 pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and other times by Appointment (Call Mark 202-744-1343). 9 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley, CA, next to the Idle Hour tasting room, and across from Cafe Rustica.
Check Out Our New Releases this Weekend at the Tasting Room
2014 Fume Blanc
2013 Bunter Natur Syrah
2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot
2012 Napa Valley Garagitage
We’ll Also Have Holiday Specials for our “Not a Wine Club” Mailing List! To give you a flavor, here’s an update on harvest: 2015 vintage featured early bud break, early flowering, and an early harvest. Wine quality seems good, with yields 25-50% below the last couple of years. We did score a small amount (one barrel’s worth!) of some truly fabulous organic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. The Bunter Syrah estate vineyard in Napa was down in quantity from 2014 but the quality in 2015 seems spectacular. We also will have Santa Cruz Sauvignon Blanc again in 2015, which is great because we’ve sold out of the 2014! However, we kept one barrel of 2014 Sauvignon Blanc for additional “sur lie” aging, and bottled it as Fume Blanc. We have been in a Conundrum (wine geek joke) over our Love Child Sweet Chardonnay. Some people turn green at the mere mention of sweet Chardonnay, others drink it with delight and gush over it. It has 3% residual sugar, similar to many popular gewurtz or riesling wines, and only a fraction as sweet as true dessert wines. We drank it with pumpkin pie. It’s a MIRACLE! It doesn’t just taste good with pumpkin pie, it makes the pie taste better. That’s what wine and food pairing is supposed to do. And, checking the calendar, it’s Thanksgiving soon. Thank You, God. We recommend Kitchen Pink Rose with the turkey and cranberry sauce, and Love Child Sweet Chardonnay with the pumpkin pie. It’s what we will be drinking (I suspect there will also be some Pinot Noir consumed).
Happy Holidays from Bunter Spring Winery and Friends!