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Gamba Vineyards and Winery - Russian River Valley


First Place & 92 Points California Grapevine

Now, for the rest of the story . . . It seems that around 1910, Gus Gamba’s grandfather, a winemaker by trade, left his native northern Italian village of Millesimo in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. He initiated a series of trips to the United States, and to Northern California in particular. Grandfather Gamba returned to Italy with glowing reports about the opportunities and advantages of what was still considered by some to be frontier land.

His son, Agostino Gamba, was so impressed with his father’s stories and descriptions that he decided to immigrate along with his sister in 1930, and ultimately settled in the Peninsula area just below San Francisco. Even though Agostino was a winemaker similar to his father, he ultimately opened a successful restaurant in Redwood City. Agostino began making trips up to the Sonoma region, whose terrain reminded him of his native region in Italy. He eventually became friends with a grape grower named Cesare Barbieri who owned an old Zinfandel vineyard that had been planted in 1900. Agostino then made a deal to buy the vineyard in small pieces and today’s Gamba Vineyards is the namesake of that original Zinfandel vineyard. Agostino Gamba began farming the old vines and through the years sold his grapes to a number of clients.

In 1983, Agostino Gamba passed away, leaving the vineyards in the hands of his son Agostino “Gus” Gamba, who was then a mere seventeen years old. Since the entire family had worked the vines on the weekends and summers, Gus felt it his place to carry on his father’s traditions. He first attended the University of California Santa Barbara and earned a business economics degree, but his father’s vineyards always remained foremost in his mind. Gus devoted all his spare time to the Sonoma property and in 1995 finally moved his family to a renovated farmhouse in the middle of the vineyards. He developed a relationship with Bob Cabral (of Alderbrook and late of William Seylem fame), who decided to vineyard designate an Old Vine Zinfandel and the concept of Gamba Vineyards was born.

“I really approach our vineyards quite tenderly,” Gamba remarked. “Due to their age, we only get about a half to one ton per acre, depending on the conditions. Everything is dry farmed and organically grown, much like it was when the vines were first planted. Through the years, the quality hasn’t suffered because I really don’t push the vines.”
Gus Gamba is incredibly passionate about his Old Vine Zinfandel and his classic approach to farming that he refers to as “a true labor of love.” He is proud to point out that he treats each vine individually and over time has grown to know each plant’s unique tendencies.

“My neighbors think I am crazy,” he explained, “because my type of farming takes a great deal of time and isn’t really financially sound. I use the old head pruning method and limit each spur to only two buds.” The 2000 Old Vine Zinfandel was Gamba Vineyards and Winery’s initial release. Gus purposely limited production to only 500 cases because he only used the best grapes he could gather from his ancient vines. His following vintages have slowly raised the winery’s production to its current level of about 2,000 cases, but Gus Gamba doesn’t intend that number rise much more than that.

“We are not interested in anything big,” he added, including his mother Elizabeth and his wife Paulette (and their three children), who also have a major stake in the winery’s future. “I can control the quality at this level and that’s all I’m interested in.”

Everything seems to fit neatly together for the youngish winery owner and his family. Small production wines from superb geriatric vineyards that are made in the classic Italian tradition. What more could anyone ask for?


  1. Gamba
    2007 Zinfandel
    Gamba
    Russian River Valley
    Sonoma County

    $38.00

    $43.00
    92 - Robert Parker
    id: 537
    Special
    Platinum

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