Fred Gunton, A Nose For Wine. ##Photo provided

Fred Gunton

A Nose For Wine founder remembered

By Mark Stock

The Willamette Valley wine industry lost a devoted and friendly servant in late 2020. Fred Gunton, longtime tour guide and advocate for all things Oregon wine, died Nov. 27, following complications of cancer treatment in Orange, California.

Many in the wine scene recognize Gunton for his personalized brand of hospitality. He wore a trademark mustache that curled atop his always-smiling face as he bounced among wineries conducting tour groups. He was dapper and always excited by the industry.

Gunton started A Nose For Wine in 2003. In the beginning, he hosted wine education classes. During this time, he also worked with Ralph Stinton at Grape Escape; Gunton began conducting tours on his own in 2005. After an early retirement from FujiFilm, his wife, Marie Gunton, joined her husband hosting wine tours, until they both fully retired in November 2018.

Over the years, Gunton and Stinton developed a close relationship. He says of his friend, “Gunton was truly one-of-a-kind, always armed with a quip and a good heart.

“Fred was well known and highly regarded. People loved him and his vast wine knowledge and unique stories. He had many interesting lives within his 77 years, but I think the last part, in our wine country with Marie, was the sweetest for him.”

Stinton got to know Gunton at Montinore. He was impressed by Gunton’s knowledge and affability behind the bar. He was so taken by his work that Stinton asked Gunton if he knew anybody else like him, thinking he could use somebody with his chops at Grape Escape.

“He said, in fact, he did,” Stinton recalled. “He took a step back, stood up straight, chest out and gave a big smile with that gleam in his eye. It was too good to be true. Fred soon thereafter went to work as one of our trusted guides, and the adventure began.”

He would infuse a certain “Fredness” to the tours, Stinton remembers. Gunton would drive with the seat reclined — “He was a cool cat,” Stinton said — and never allowed guests to simply enter a car without some conversation first. In doing so, he earned repeat customers, always asking for Fred.

Gunton always made a memorable entrance, whether it was into a tasting room or a hotel parking lot to scoop up tourists. He had a way of getting out of jams and, as Stinton recalls, he would do so in style, with that Cheshire-cat smile and uttering now-iconic phrases like “The nose knows.”

When Gunton launched his own business route, the two kept in contact. They’d meet often, catch up and talk Oregon wine. “Fred being a good bit older than me, I always marveled at not only Fred’s work ethic, but his ability to work me under the table,” Stinton recalled.

Upon retirement, the Guntons relocated to Southern California, where he was working on a book about his life. Stinton said. “He shared a few chapters (via e-mail) and now, I’d like to read the rest.”

Had there been an unfavorable review of one of Gunton’s many tours over the years, no one’s overheard it or seen it online. One of the more eloquent endorsements of his work was published on TripAdvisor in 2009. Written by PinotPatriot of North Carolina, it read “Fred is PINOT,” an acronym referring to him being professional, interesting, native, original and thorough.

Gunton’s resting place is a fitting one, among the vines at Winderlea Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. It’s safe to say a tour in Oregon wine country will never be quite the same without him around.

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