Monday, October 17, 2011

Kunde Family Estate Winery – Sonoma Valley

I love traveling the wine country this time of year! The morning air is brisk, you can smell the wine must in the air and while many vineyards have been harvested there are still a number of grapes on the vine seeking to achieve perfection in ripening. The goal is not merely to have the desired sugar levels (around 25 Brix) but also to have ripe sweet tannins rather than green bitter tannins. This is determined by break a seed in the grape to seek if the center is still green or if it has matured and turned dark.

Probably one of the best wine countries in California to get a sense of the autumn colors is Sonoma and so I headed out last Saturday October 15th to visit three wineries, the first was Kunde Family Estate Winery.

For over a century, five generations of the Kunde family have farmed their 1,850-acre estate in the heart of Sonoma Valley that stretches for 2½ miles along the Sonoma Highway. From these vineyards, Kunde Family Estate produces their estate-grown and sustainably farmed wines.

As the name indicates, Kunde Family Estate Winery is family owned and operated with a hands-on team that includes the 4th and 5th generation of family members whose aim is to carry on the legacy of their founder - Louis Kunde.

The vineyards were first planted in 1879 by viticultural pioneers James Shaw and Captain John Drummond, with imported cuttings from the renowned Chateaux Margaux and Lafite Rothschild. Louis Kunde, after emigrating from Germany, purchased the Wildwood Vineyards ranch with its original iron-rich, ancient red volcanic soils at the turn of the century in 1904. Upon Louis’ death in 1922, the winery and vineyards were passed down to his son, Arthur “Big Boy” Kunde. Big Boy sustained the winery during the Prohibition by selling “sacramental” wines, and though he continued to grow grapes through World War II, he was forced to close the winery doors when his sons were drafted into service. Throughout the 1960’s and ‘70’s, his sons, Bob and Fred, expanded the Kunde Estate, adding the Kinneybrook Ranch in 1977 and planted hundreds of acres to prime varietals, followed by the creation of the aging caves in the early 1990’s.

In October 2004, three-generations of the Kunde family gathered with friends to celebrate their 100th harvest, and to honor the family wine making heritage while also affirming their commitment to advancing their wine making by utilizing modern, state-of-the-art facilities and techniques. 

Kunde Family Estate provides a variety of tours including a walk through their wine caves, a Mountain Top Tasting set at 1,400 feet above the valley floor as well as Horseback Vineyard Tours.

Kunde Family Estate also offers three flights of their all-estate wines in their tasting room - the Estate Series which are value priced everyday drinking wines, the Destination Series which are a collection of proprietary blends and small-lot vineyard designate wines and the Reserve Series which represents the best blocks and best vineyard rows each vintage has to offer.

When visiting a tasting room I usually sample the Reserve wines as they tend to demonstrate a winery’s true capabilities in artisan wine making. But, this time I wanted to taste their most affordable line up to test what we can expect from them in their average everyday wines. If they can impress me with this flight then the other two will surely be a reason to return. So, I sampled the following from their Estate Series:

My first wine was the 2010 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc. An aromatic wine with grapefruit, lemon curd and lime followed by a hint of chalk on the tail end. On the palate it has crisp acidity and finishes clean and refreshing. A really nice wine for only $15 a bottle.

The second pour was the 2009 Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up lemon custard, pears, and orange peel. On the palate it has a full creamy mouth feel and yet it isn’t a “butterball,” well balanced acidity with a slight hazelnut finish on the return. A pleasant and fair price wine at only $17 a bottle.

My third tasting was the 2010 Gewürztraminer. A tropical aromatic wine with lychee nut, melon, and pineapple on the nose. Well balanced with great acidity. A really nice wine for only $15.

My first red wine in the line-up was the 2007 Zinfandel. A big jammy wine, loaded with raspberries, boysenberry pie, and chocolate cover raisins with a hint of oak and vanilla on the finish. On the palate it delivers a full mouth of ripe fruit and drying tannins. A fair priced wine at $18 a bottle.

My second red wine was the 2008 Barbera. This is a really dark wine with black plums, black cherry aromas and flavors with well balanced acidity and really soft tannins. Objectively this is a good representative of the varietal but subjectively I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just wasn’t all that into this wine especially at $28 a bottle.

My third red wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose this is an earthy wine with black fruits with a subtle hint of vanilla. On the palate it is very dry and quite tannic, with blackberry, black currant and blueberry flavors, and yet it finishes with softly. A good value at $20 a bottle.

My final wine was the 2007 Dunfillan Cuvée (52% Syrah, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon). Except for the lack of heat, if I didn’t know better I would have guessed this one was from Australia. Raspberry and pepper on the nose followed by dark fruits, dark chocolate and mouth drying tannins that grip your teeth. A bit steep at $35 a bottle but I’ve seen it on sale elsewhere - 3 bottles for around $60.

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

For more information or to visit:

Kunde Family Estate
9825 Sonoma Hwy
Kenwood, California 95452
Phone: 1-707-833-5501