For the Glunz brothers, Stephen and Matt, winemakers at Glunz Family Winery and Cellars, booze is in the blood.
The Glunz family has been involved in the distribution and creation of wine, beer and spirits since the company was first formed by Stephen and Matt's great-grandfather Louis Glunz in 1888 in Chicago.
Each generation of the Glunz family since then has forged their own unique niche within the family business. In the 1960s, Stephen and Matt's father Joe Glunz Jr. built the company's wholesale wine distribution business, importing and distributing fine wines from Europe and representing wines from the burgeoning California wine scene.
Joe Glunz first got his start in the family business in 1944, when he was just 4 years old, and was assigned the task of washing wine bottles in the basement of the family business in downtown Chicago to be reused during wartime rationing. Matt recalled his father telling him about looking at the art on the labels of the wine bottles and dreaming of one day owning his own winery and vineyard.
Stephen and Matt have now helped to make their father's dream a reality with their east side Paso Robles winery and vineyards, purchased from Norman Vineyards in 2013. The winery, focused on zinfandel and cabernet, produced 1,400 cases that first year with the most current vintage up to 4,000 cases.
The brothers recently invited the entire third generation of the Glunz family to Paso Robles to see what they have built and got a warm response.
"It was the first time a lot of them had been here and they were just over the moon with how excited they were about what we're doing," Matt said. "Everybody is so proud of what we're doing. I think it's pretty cool. Every generation has kind of done it's own thing, and this is sort of our take on trying something new."
The Glunz Family winery and tasting room, located at 8331 Highway 46 East, is a virtual museum of Glunz family history — from the wall of family photos dating back more than a century and the clock that used to hang in the Glunz Tavern in Chicago to the antique corker used by four generations of the Glunz family and the cabinet full of antique bottles emblazoned with the Glunz logo.
With more than a century of family history behind them, Stephen and Matt said that passing the legacy on to the next generation is their only real concern.
"It was a little bit of weight, sort of a passing of the torch a little bit," Stephen said. "There's a little bit of weight on you there that you have to push it and get it to the next generation in one piece, and somewhat healthy — leave it better than you found it."
Any member of the Glunz family wishing to work in the family businesses is required to work for three years outside of the family business, a tradition that Stephen and Matt said they plan to continue.
"Go do something else," Matt said. "Don't come to the winery or the business because frankly you're not allowed. So it forces you to try something else, but also while you're doing it, learn as much as you can, be a sponge for three years. So
that's what we did."
Stephen and Matt both spent time working in a wine shop during their college years and both later went on to make wine for E & J Gallo Winery and later for Murphy-Goode Winery.
Before opening the new winery in Paso Robles, Stephen went back to work for the family wholesale business in Chicago, but the wholesale business didn't hold as much appeal for Matt.
"I just kind of realized that wholesale is not my deal, going out and selling wine," he said. "But making it and being able to sell it here (in the tasting room) and having that interaction — that's another thing we love about retail is having that interaction."
The two brothers share winemaking duties, but Matt said that they don't actually do much to the wine and instead focus on finding the highest quality grapes.
"That's the beauty of Paso Robles," he said. "We get these really warm days so you get ripeness and we get these really cold nights so you get incredible acidity at the same time. So if everything works out well, we really don't have to do too much. Literally, we don't add anything to the wine, and the flavors are remarkable. We're blessed with this great area and these great grapes when they come in."
With their varietals created in a hands-off fashion, the brothers then do a bit of blending to further refine the flavors of their wines, such as adding a bit of petit verdot to the syrah to add more fruitiness or adding a little cab franc to soften the cabernet.
"We sort of base everything on flavor, and flavor is driving every major decision we make," Matt said. "We take all of the ingredients we're given, we try not to manipulate them, and then toward the end we just kind of take a look and it's sort of like cooking, we just try to build up a big spice rack and get as many flavors as we can by using a bunch of different cooperages, a bunch of different barrels, a bunch of different sites and then just kind of have fun and blend around together."
The brothers rarely disagree about winemaking decisions and quickly work through the disagreement when they do, Matt said.
"Generally, if one of us feels stronger in a particular direction, I feel like most of the time we don't even have to discuss it," he said. "It works out well that way."
The brothers say they are meticulous about quality control and obsessed with finding the best fruit.
"We see every grape three times on the day it's picked," Matt said. "We're out in the vineyards, especially this time of year, and we just try to be obsessed with picking the best grapes. From the grapes all the way to when it's bottled, we do everything. You might call us control freaks or whatever, but it's really nice that this building and these vineyards really allow us to be in charge of the whole process. So, if it's good, it's on us, and if it doesn't work out, it's on us as well. If it's got our name on it, we're going to make sure that it's the best thing we can possibly create."