Bartholomew Park, the historic winery estate on Sonoma’s east side, ended its management contract with The Bundschu Company last week – and wasted no time in lining up a new winemaker to oversee its vineyards. Bundschu had been running operations there for more than 20 years, but chose to leave its 25-year lease early.
Spokespersons for Bartholomew Park, run by a foundation created in 1990 to preserve and protect the historic site, told the Index-Tribune they were comfortable with the withdrawal of the Bundschu Company. “We’re all parting as friends,” said by Bartholomew Foundation trustee Anna Pope.
“The decision to part ways was a mutual decision between Bart Park and Bundschu,” said Alison Seibert, publicist for a number of wine labels, including Gundlach Bundsch and Abbot’s Passage, a new label launched by Katie Bundschu.
Seibert declined to give financial details of the lease or its dissolution.
“I did not ask for an early termination fee, and they did not offer one,” said Pope.
Though the news caught many by surprise, the separation may not have been so sudden after all.
Kevin Holt, winemaker at Beltane Ranch for the past decade, said that he was approached by Pope last summer about taking on the project.
“I monitored the vineyards during the fall, prior to the 2017 harvest, and developed a plan over the winter by which the foundation could take over on the winemaking under my direction,” said Holt.
Holt added that while he would be taking over for the 2018 harvest, there was no wine currently in production, and what is in bottle is licensed to Gundlach Bundschu for sales through its website and club until the end of the year. Sauvignon blanc was the only wine grape sold to Gun-Bun from the 2017 harvest; the red wine grapes found other buyers.
All the vineyards were harvested before last autumn’s fires, which struck the area on Oct. 14.
Holt will continue as winemaker at Beltane Ranch, calling both wineries “on the small side, allowing me to be totally hands-on throughout the crafting process.” At this time, Bartholomew Park Wines will continue to be sold direct-to-customer, both at the winery tasting room and wine clubs.
The 31-acre estate vineyard at the property have been managed by Phil Coturri, following his emphasis on organic farming. It received organic certification in 2005. Holt said he is familiar with the heritage of the property and the wines made from it, and would be bringing “my own vision of how to best express the character of its outstanding vineyards.” That included farming using organic processes, he said.
Bartholomew Park’s vineyards produce sauvignon blanc and several reds including cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah and merlot. Though the vineyards were originally planted in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, known as Sonoma Valley’s first winemaker, none of the vines date from that era. Haraszthy, who called the winery Buena Vista, sold the vineyards and property after only 10 years.
After several changes of hands, Frank Bartholomew, a journalist and at one time chairman of United Press International (UPI), purchased the property at auction in the early 1940s and replanted the vineyards. He sold the original winery site and Buena Vista name in 1968, and in 1973 began making wines as Hacienda Winery.
Hacienda in turn was purchased by Bronco in 1992, which led to Bundschu’s management of the site and its initiation of the Bartholomew Park Wine brand.
About Bart Park
Bartholomew Park Winery is located at 1000 Vineyard Lane in east Sonoma. Tasting room and museum are open daily 10 – 5 p.m., the picnic area until 4 p.m.
For more information about the park and foundation, visit www.bartholomewpark.org.
For information about the winery, go to www.bartpark.com.