A visit to Kunde Family Estate, Sonoma

 

Cave tour at Kunde Family Estate

Tasting room at Kunde Family Estate

Owl box

Private dining room inside Kunde's wine cave

One of their most popular tasting experiences

It didn’t surprise me that Kunde’s main tasting room bar was crowded when I arrived. Located in the heart of the Sonoma Valley on Sonoma Highway at Kenwood, Kunde Family Estate is a favorite with visitors to Sonoma. It also helps that the winery was a location for many scenes of the film Bottleshock, and a favorite wedding location. (Actress, Geena Davis chose Dunfillan Ruins on the Kunde Estate for her wedding.)

I had been to the winery before and seen many of the Bottleshock film locations, so today I decided to make an impromptu visit to check out the tasting room experience. With the tasting room counter completely packed, paying a little extra for a tasting in the Kinneybrook Room seemed a good idea.

For the $20 Kinneybrook tasting you get to sit, relax and enjoy several healthy pours and finish with a port and chocolate tasting. I chose to sit outside on the patio, (although you can also sit inside) and received a relaxing, personalized tasting. I enjoyed not being rushed and could actually appreciate the wines. Unlike a crowded tasting room experience, this was definitely well worth it.

The cave tour is another great way to explore the winery. Every 30 minutes (Friday – Sunday) you can join a free tour of the wine cave hidden inside the mountain. Inside the cave you’ll find 6,000 barrels. If you haven’t been inside a wine cave and seen barrels aging before this is a great time to do it. For those of you that have, you might want to skip this. For special events or weddings they also have a dining area with a long table and candles inside the cave.

Along with being a family-run business for five generations, the estate is known for its sustainability practices. One of the easy ways to know this is a sustainable vineyard is from the many owl boxes poking out above the vines. Decorated by local schools, the owl boxes provide a natural way of getting rid of rodents.

Of the estate’s 1850 acres, 750 are sustainably farmed with 20 different grape varieties, and all are grown without chemicals. In the vineyard you’ll see things like cover crops planted between vines in order to control erosion, improve soil fertility and provide a home for beneficial insects. Kunde has received a Green Business Program Certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program, and an Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for sustainable practices and facilities from the State of California. Kunde Estate is also Certified Sustainable by the Certified Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. I always enjoy visiting these wineries to learn about these practices.

Experiences at Kunde go way beyond the tasting room. One of the most popular, and spectacular, is the Mountain Top Tasting. From a shaded wooden deck at the top of the mountain you will taste several wines and take in the stunning view of the Sonoma Valley. Other experiences include the Estate Hike, where you can witness the sustainable grape-growing methods first hand. With so many interesting locations on this large estate, Kunde is also a popular location for weddings, special events, commercials and films.

Expert tip: If you have the time, bypass the tasting room counter and go straight to the Kinneybrook Room. Or, better yet, book a Mountain Top Tasting. (2 days advance notice required)

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

7/10 Knowledge of guide

8/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

9/10 Other experiences: Private tastings, Mountain Top Tasting & Estate Hike, Special events

6/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

8/10 Friendliness of staff

8/10 Signage & ease of access

8/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required: No

Address: 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452

www.kunde.com

Tasting room hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily

Tasting fees & experiences:

  • $10 per person – Main tasting room bar (No reservation necessary)
  • $20 per person – Kinneybrook room (No reservation necessary)
  • $40 per person – Mountain Top Tasting (Reservations required 2 days in advance)
  • $30 per person – Hiking Program (Reservations required) Guided tours of aging caves are available at no charge and without appointment for groups of ten or less.

Good for: Couples, groups, weddings, engagements, special events

Wines produced: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Red blends, Dessert wines.

What’s nearby: St. Francis Winery, Chateau St. Jean Winery, Landmark Vineyards, Ledson Winery & Vineyards

Appellation/District: Sonoma Valley

Contact for appointments: To schedule a private or group tour, please contact (707) 833-5501, Extension 331 or naomi@kunde.com.

Date of visit: July 19, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com