Rob Bundschu, lost and found in ‘Uncorking Miracles’

Winery scion’s new book, ‘Uncorking Miracles,’ traces his rocky road from alcoholism to spirituality.|

Where to find it

“Uncorking Miracles: The Wholly True Spiritual Journey of a Wine Family’s Son” is available at Readers’ Books, at 130 E. Napa St., and online at

“This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.”

Those well-worn lines from the biblical tale of the Prodigal Son are not lost on Rob Bundschu.

The parable told by Jesus in the Book of Luke -- which recounts the story of a youth who leaves his family farm for a raucous life of wine, women and song, only to realize the error of his ways and be welcomed back home with open arms – isn’t so far from Bundschu’s life’s journey.

It’s a story depicted in a new memoir, “Uncorking Miracles: The Wholly True Spiritual Journey of a Wine Family’s Son,” where the scion of the Gundlach Bundschu Winery legacy recounts his emotional path from alcoholism to recovery to, eventually, finding meaning and fulfillment through spirituality.

And, years later, finding his way back home to Sonoma and GunBun. But the long road home was was a rocky one, said Bundschu.

“It follows the story of this guy living this life – with lots of high school and college-drinking stories – to an event that happened in my mid-20s when I fell in love for the first time, which led to triggering what the doctors called a psychotic break,” said Bundschu, 51.

“But I call it a spiritual crisis.”

Rob Bundschu grew up in Sonoma, seemingly destined for a life as part of the Bundschu family wine business, the legacy of which dates back to the late 19th century when winemaker Charles Bundschu joined Jacob Gundlach’s 400-acre Rhinefarm in Sonoma which, under the rechristened name Gundlach Bundschu Winery, grew to become one of the most notable wineries in Northern California.

By the time he was in his mid-20s, Rob Bundschu had been named national sales manager for the winery and his future as part of Bundschu company seemed bright. But that kind of responsibility can weigh heavily on someone still navigating the road into adulthood and Bundschu turned further toward what had always been readily available in his family’s chosen industry: alcohol.

“Any alcohol-related business would lead to problems for those that have addictive personalities,” Bundschu told the Index-Tribune this week. “Most of the people (in the industry) seem to drink wine in balance. But that wasn’t me.”

Bundschu said his drinking days hit “a low point” when he developed a secret crush on a Mill Valley bartender and one day decided to reveal his feelings.

“I had this epiphany that life isn’t working for me and drinking wasn’t fun anymore and it led to this come-to-Jesus moment that I’m going to make my last stand and was going to ask this person out on her birthday,” said Bundschu. “That didn’t go so well.”

Without giving too much away, Bundschu said it led to what he calls “the plunge,” a type of psychotic episode highlighted by hallucinations and “an experience of hell.” He wound up in the hospital where doctors told him he’d had a “psychotic break.” To him, it was simply “profoundly frightening.”

But Bundschu credits the event as what “ultimately kicked me onto this spiritual journey.”

The first step of that journey found him leaving the wine industry for a 12-step recovery program in Florida, touching off a series of events that involved the teachings of televangelist Joel Osteen, a job as leader of the spirituality section at a Barnes & Noble bookstore and an intense, life-changing dream that Bundschu compares to a near-death experience.

“I fell asleep one night and, it sounds strange to say, in the dream Jesus shows up and kind of gives me an experience of going to a higher plane, going to heaven,” Bundschu said. “It’s similar to a near death experience where people talk of dying -- but mine was through a dream.”

The dream unleashed his hunger for more spiritual teachings and he would go on to become a student of “A Course in Miracles,” Helen Schucman’s influential 1976 spirituality tome, among other literature that Bundschu said helped him find meaning – and sparked his eventual return to Sonoma and the family business in 2010.

Today, Rob Bundschu’s official title is Orchestrator of Happiness, which involves leading tours at the winery and offering private tasting experiences. He lives in Sonoma with his wife Zeynep, who also works for the family business. “We live a pretty quiet life,” Bundschu said.

If readers have one take-away from “Uncorking Miracles,” he’d like it to be a sense of hope.

“They’ll see that maybe there’s hope down the road for people who have addiction problems like me,” said Bundschu. “That it’s possible to get yourself out of it.”

But on an “abstract level,” Bundschu said it’s more important that readers come away with their own feelings about the book, regardless of what he’s intended.

“I wrote the book and put it out there, it’s not my business what happens after that.”

Bundschu is quick to acknowledge his family’s long-time support as he struggled “through the recovery journey.”

“They’ve always been there,” said Bundschu. “The fact that I work at the winery speaks for itself.”

Like the Prodigal Son, he feels “pretty blessed” as to where his journey ended up.

“I feel a lot of gratitude these days.”

Email Jason Walsh at

Where to find it

“Uncorking Miracles: The Wholly True Spiritual Journey of a Wine Family’s Son” is available at Readers’ Books, at 130 E. Napa St., and online at

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