Kunde Estate Winery Wonderful wines and fabulous views
By Denman Moody
In 1904, Louis Kunde acquired the historical Wildwood Vineyard about 15 miles north of Sonoma and shortly thereafter built a winery. His son Arthur took over at Louis’ death in 1922, and Arthur’s two sons greatly expanded the estate. In the 1960s and 1970s, the fourth generation continued the expansion, planting additional vineyards. Today there are 1,850 acres, about 800 of which are vineyards.
The striking views leading up to the winery, which has the most impressive trellising system I’ve observed, made me wish I could get a bird’s-eye view. After driving to the top of a hill later with Jeff Kunde in his pickup and viewing about 600 or more of the finest-looking vineyards imaginable as well as 1,000 or so acres of woodlands, lakes and pastures, I thought this might be a dream.
Although their operations aren’t nearly to such a large scale, many second- and third-generation farmers, ranchers and vineyard owners abound in the area. Many of them incorporate sustainable farming, organic farming, certified organic farming and biodynamic farming. Although each practice is a vast subject in itself, Jeff explained that true sustainable farming, which includes many of the practices of the others, expands from farming techniques into a way of life.
For example, not only have the Kundes utilized bird boxes high above the vineyards for owls and hawks to control moles and other rodents harmful to vines, but they’ve also gone to great lengths to decrease energy consumption, use natural composting materials, control erosion, etc. Furthermore, they’ve involved every employee in the winery and vineyards in the project.
One unique practice for the Kundes involves fourth- and fifth-graders who visit on school field trips to help plant trees along the streams on the property. This project aids in erosion control and shades the creeks, thus creating a cooler environment for the fish eggs deposited during the annual steelhead migration. The children are encouraged to come back over the years and see how the trees are doing — then someday bring their own children to see a firsthand account of environmental stewardship!
Kunde has even assembled a green committee with at least one person from each department of this large operation (they still run cattle, too). Interestingly, one of the tasting-room employees has a degree in environmental sciences and has joined the committee. Everyone is very pleased about this!
Jeff is very passionate about sustainable farming, but in a very practical way. Kunde will do anything it can within reason and budget to safeguard its property and to improve its farming, ranching and winemaking practices. The goal is to maintain the natural beauty and sustainability of the operation for future generations — hopefully including lots of Kundes!
Kunde’s next step is the sponsorship of green tours for hiking and wine enthusiasts. Such tours enhance public education and awareness of sustainable winegrowing practices.
One green tour is the sustainable walking tour 1,400 feet up, which is moderately strenuous. The hike and taste tour is less arduous and a little more horizontal. Hikers on this tour wind through a range of sustainable ecosystems and native habitats, stopping for an occasional tasting along the way. The tours are $30, and one should pack a lunch and wear appropriate shoes. Reservations are required; call 707-833-5501. If you’re not a candidate for a tour, do not miss visiting this gorgeous place next time you’re in Sonoma County. It is comforting to know there is someone working passionately to make sure that when you visit — as well as the next generation — everything will be even more beautiful and productive with less energy usage, less waste and more environmentally friendly practices. And of course, they’re always pursuing ways to improve their wonderful wines.