The Event
Sonoma's First Cabernet Sauvignon
© by Sheral Schowe
The first grape vines of Sonoma's famous Kunde Estate were planted over 100 years ago by the original owners, James Shaw and James Drummond, pioneers in California viticulture. They experimented with many new varieties from cuttings imported from Chateau Margaux and Lafite Rothschild. They were responsible for producing the fist varietal Cabernet Sauvignon in the United States. Today, the Kunde vineyards still grow the vines from those first imported cuttings. The original 6-acre lot, called Drummond Vineyard still exists as it was planted in the mid 1800's, on a rocky ridge sloping up the Mayacamas Mountains.

Kunde Esates has grown to over 2,000 acres which include some of the valley's oldest Chardonnay vines, a 119-year-old vineyard of Zinfandel vines, a long vineyard of Sauvignon Blanc, named after row of majestic Magnolia trees planted by Louis Kunde in 1906 which line the entrance to the vineyards, and vineyards of Merlot, Syrah, and other Rhone varieties. There is also a UC Davis Certified Block, featuring one of the largest collections of certified grape varieties by clone in the world. The estates also include the Kunde family homestead, the Kunde Estate Winery, and several hundred acres to raise purebred Hereford cattle. The property stretches one and one half miles along the Sonoma Highway on the valley floor up into the Mayacamas Mountains, with a western exposure. All of the irrigation is provided exclusively by lakes and wells on the kunde property, however, many of the vineyards are dry-farmed.

In the early summer, grape leaves are selectively and painstakingly pulled off of the vines to expose the grapes to the air and sun. At harvest, the grapes are all picked by hand during the early morning hours, hand sorted, and brought directly to the winery for crush. These extraordinary efforts, the heritage of the grapes, and the diversity of soils create a list of award-winning wines which reflect the tradition of not only the Kunde's four generations of winemakers, but of the rich history of California's wine-making industry.

Utah's wine stores carry several of the Kunde wines. Kunde Estate 1997 Merlot ($17.55) is a complex wine cherry and berry fruit up front, and a spicy finish from the addition of Cabernet Franc. Kunde Estate 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.50) is blended with 13% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, and some Merlot. It is full of juicy cherry, currant, and blackberry flavors with some mint subtleties and a finish of licorice and spice. Kunde Estate 1998 Chardonnay ($14.70) is full of varietal flavors and aromas of apple, pear, and citrus. The fruit is not overwhelmed, but complimented by a delicious hint of toast, vanilla, and butter from 60% barrel aging and malolactic fermentation. My favorite Kunde wine in Utah is the 1998 Estate Syrah ($19.50) It is made in true Rhone style, with the addition of Grenache and a small amount of the white and aromatic grape, Viognier. The ripe raspberry and boysenberry flavors are counterbalanced by black pepper spice.

I would like to see Utah wine stores add the Century Vines Zinfandel, the Drummond Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Reserve Chardonnay as well. These three wines really represent the history and tradition of the properties. The age of these vines are apparent in highly complex aromas and flavors. They are wines that I have often enjoyed with family and friends on my trips to California and would highly recommend to those of you who travel out of state.

Nov. 20, 2000

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