This was our first visit to Kunde Family Winery and it quickly became one of our favorite stops. The property itself is a spectacular 1,850 acres that includes twenty different varietals grown in six micro-climates. Most of the grapes are grown in what is referred to as “Red Hill Soil” which is what remains of a 5-million-year old lava flow.When grapevines struggle in poor conditions, they produce better wines.
We walked into the tasting room and were immediately greeted by Mike. He is super-friendly, knowledgeable and very passionate about wine. He was preparing to lead Kunde’s Mountaintop Tasting Tour (unfortunately for us it was sold out – but more about that later).
Kunde’s retail shop is impressive. Instead of the same old, ho-hum assortment of merchandise they have some unusual items; cork purses, a rustic decanter that I would have bought if I could have figure out how to get it home in one piece, some great books, gourmet food items and an amazing vase made from a Portuguese cork tree.
Kunde offers a variety of tours and tastings that should fit everyone’s preference. There is a basic tasting in the Main Tasting Room for $15 per person. The outdoor venue, 202 Lounge, was our choice since it was such a gorgeous day. Similar to the tasting in the Main Bar the fee is $15. A private, seated tasting is offered in the Kinneybrook Room, a gorgeous space that allows you to relax and really get to savor Kunde’s wines. The wines are paired with a cheese plate for $30.
The $50 Mountain Top Tasting, sold out the day we were there, is set 1,400 feet at the top of the mountain above the winery. It sounds amazing and on our next trip I will be sure to make a reservation. It also includes a wine tasting.
Mike suggested that we join the complimentary Cave Tour lead by Duck. (No that is not a typo. You know your tour is ready to leave when you hear the duck call – very fun). Duck was fabulous! He is very knowledgeable about Kunde, the area and the wine. He has a dry sense of humor that I found delightful. We were lead into a wine tunnel that was carved from a volcanic lava flow. Along the way Duck gave us a colorful history of the Kunde Winery.
The cave itself is extraordinary. It was dug between 1989 and 1990 and is ½ mile long. It holds 6,000 barrels of wine and has a year-round temperature of 58-62 degrees Fahrenheit. The natural 75% humidity of the cave is perfect for aging wine in barrels with minimum evaporation (called the “Angel’s Share” by winemakers). It was very refreshing on the warm summer day that we were there.
At the end of the tunnel is a dramatic dining area complete with chandelier and formal tables. The back of the cave was left with the red volcanic rock exposed like a stunning piece of art. This would be the perfect setting for a wedding, milestone birthday party or another special event.
An interesting tidbit that Duck shared with us is that about 80% of the movie “Bottle Shock” was filmed at Kunde. They have even left the boxing ring from the movie and you can see it on the mountain top tour.
When we finished our cave tour, it was time for some wine tasting. Kat was pouring for us and she was amazing! She was taking care of a group of ten bridesmaids as well as four couples and we were all feeling the love. She poured and chatted and joked and no one felt left out. Also, at the other end of the tasting bar, fifth generation, Jordan Kunde looked like he was also doing a good job of pouring wine and keeping his customers entertained.
Kat did a great job of making our tasting experience unique by giving us side-by-side tastes of each varietal. On this visit, we tasted the following wines:
2015 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc – $17. I don’t consider myself to be a true white wine drinker but this was fruity and fresh. It would be fabulous with a summer salad or early evening watching the sunset. Great price point.
2015 Kunde Sauvignon Blanc, Block 4SB20 – $25. I thought the finish of this wine was a bit harsh and prefer the Magnolia Lane.
2013 Kunde Red Dirt Red – $35. This is a six grape blend. The color is gorgeous.
2013 Century Vines Kunde Meritage 202 – $35. This is a blend of five different Bordeaux varieties. It has a velvety texture.
2013 Kunde Sonoma Valley, Family Estate Series Zinfandel – $22. Drinkable now with a nice hint of berry.
2013 Kunde Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel – $50. This was a nice wine but would really benefit from being cellared for about ten years to really round out the sharp notes.
2012 Kunde Cabernet Sauvignon, Drummond Vineyard – $50. Delicious.
2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – $60. This was a bit more peppery and could really stand up to a steak or a bit of dark chocolate.
2012 Kunde Red Wine, Moon Mountain District – $100. We were lucky enough to try this wine-club only blend. Good enough to join the wine-club for it.
Non-Vintage 1904 Dessert Cuvee – $40. This is named 1904 because that is when the land was bought to plant the first grapes. This was smooth and had some undertones of caramel. Really nice.
Kunde also has a wine club that seems to be packed with events. I looked over the list and it is quite a range from a Sweetheart’s Dinner in February to a Harvest Celebration and Barbeque in October. But the one that really caught my eye was the Wine Club Dog Hike and Lunch. I chatted with Kat about it as she was involved in setting it up. She told me that the one in April was a lot of fun and raised money for the local humane society. I will have to try to take Angel to that next year (but she truly is a wine dog and we will have to keep her away from the tasting bar J)
If you are tasting in Sonoma, Kunde Family Winery is truly a must visit. Everyone is friendly and makes you feel like part of the family. It is relaxing with plenty of space to explore and really get to know the wines.
Susan’s Score – Cannot Be Missed