Bartholomew Park, the historic winery estate on Sonoma’s east side, ended its management contract with Gundlach Bundschu last week and wasted no time lining up a new winemaker to oversee its vineyards: Kevin Holt at Beltane Ranch.
The Bundschu Co. had been running operations there for more than 20 years, but chose to leave its 25-year lease early. Bartholomew Park is run by a foundation created in 1990 to preserve and protect the historic site.
“The decision to part ways was a mutual decision between Bart Park and Gundlach 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.
Though the news caught many by surprise, the separation may not have been so sudden after all.
Holt, winemaker at Beltane Ranch for the past decade, said he was approached by Bartholomew Foundation trustee Anna 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 already bottled 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 the October wildfires.
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.” 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 has 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 his “own vision of how to best express the character of its outstanding vineyards.” That includes 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, 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.
Although the winery’s tasting room and historic museum remain open, the trail system on the 375-acre property is closed as a result of extensive fire damage. Scott Clyde, general manager of the property, said the fire burned a lot of trees and all of the hiking trails