Bret Munselle is a grape grower. His family has grown grapes for as long as anyone in Alexander Valley can remember. They have also grown prunes, other crops and had a dairy farm. But in the 1970s, the Munselle family returned to the wine grapes that had been the ribbon that wove two families together. The wine grapes continue to be the cornerstone of the Munselle family business. And the Munselles have been producing wines since 2006.
Munselle Family History
When Bret married wife Kristin in 2005, she thought he should start making wine. He responded that he and his brother already made a barrel in the garage and they were quite happy with that. However, with the next vintage after that—2006—the first Munselle Vineyard wine was produced. The Munselles have been making wine ever since.
The family history in Alexander Valley goes back to English immigrant Shadrach Osborn who founded the area when he arrived to explore lumber opportunities. He established a home ranch and started the first winery—Lone Pine Cellars—where Fieldstone stands today.
Fast forward through many changes in the industry to 1972 when Bret Munselle's grandparents, Fred and Ruby Wasson, converted all of the orchards to vineyards.
Today, the Munselle family farms over 500 acres in the Valley and owns six properties encompassing about 300 acres.
Tasting Munselle Wines
Bret’s parents, Bill and Reta (Wasson) Munselle are now the family patriarch and matriarch. The family is a huge supporter of local schools and charities and is considered a leader in the Valley. The Munselles have driven the charge for recognition of wines from Alexander Valley, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bret’s daily responsibilities remain farming and, as he likes to point out, what a life he has. He farms what becomes an elegant end result and he gets to have a role in both the farming and chemistry of the winemaking. And, this father of four girls under ten years old “still gets to play with tractors, diesel, dogs and trucks.” For Bret, “this is the best farming, because we are farming a romanticized and beautiful product.”
This joy is evident in the wines that Bret makes at the winery and under the watchful eye of his longtime friend, Clay Mauritson at Mauritson Wines in Dry Creek Valley.
The grapes are all from Alexander Valley and the winery’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from their own River Ranch Vineyard, which is actually a field blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musque, a clone of Sauvignon Blanc. It is a tropical fruit-laced, crisp wine with perfect balanced acidity and roundness in the finish imparted by time in neutral French oak.
The Munselle Vineyards Coin Flip Ranch Chardonnay is the perfect Chardonnay to pair with crab and a light cream sauce. Bold apple-pear aromas are followed by refined almond apple flavors and a long, lustrous finish imparted by a barrel aging program of 4/4/4, equal time in new, one year old and neutral French oak. Interestingly, Coin Flip Ranch takes its name from the way grandfather Fred Wasson and grapegrower Tim Murphy split a piece of property they bought together and split it with a heads or tails decision.
2013 MV Zinfandel is actually 100% Primitivo that Bret likes because of the varietal’s small, thick-skinned grapes with lush, concentrated flavors. This elegant Zinfandel is from 12 year old vines that sit on a longtime Zinfandel vineyard, with some vines dating back to 1880.
Bret and the entire Munselle clan love Cabernet Sauvignon and they grow a lot of it. The current vintage, 2010 Coyote Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, is from a higher elevation vineyard. A highly age-worthy wine, it spends 24 months in half new and half neutral French oak and three years in bottle. The wine still has gorgeous currant, oak and berry on the nose and spicy, dried berry flavors. The 2010 Coyote Crest Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect pairing with lamb, grilled pork or French cheeses.
Drinking Munselle Vineyards wines is really enjoying the history of a premier winegrowing region that has gradually emerged as a premier Cabernet producer that gives Napa a good run for a lot less money. The four wines of the Munselle family are representatives of the best of the entire Alexander Valley. And they know because they farm an awful lot of it.