Dan Berger: Kundes? wines reflect historic heritage of their land

So begins a chapter in an 1889 book, ?Wines and Vines of California,? that speaks glowingly about a Sonoma Valley property that was then making some of the best cabernet sauvignons in the country.

The vineyard about which Frona Eunice Wait wrote some 120 years ago still exists. Although many of the 125 acres of vines on the ranch have been replanted, the ranch still has a 28-acre block of cabernet vines estimated to be 114 years old. In their heyday, they made single-vineyard cabernets that were world-adored and sold for exalted prices.

The bottles carried the name of the proprietor, Capt. J.H. Drummond, whose brick winery Dunfillan was located just north of the town of Glen Ellen, but situated far enough off adjacent Highway 12 so as to block the jangly sound of horse carriages and stagecoaches.

I visited Dunfillan the other day with Jeff Kunde, one of the members of the Kunde family that now owns the historic property and ancient vines.

The building is in disrepair, unused. It?s not needed since the Kunde family now has a handsome large Victorian style winery, designed like a barn, up the road at Kenwood.

The huge Kunde ranch is a phenomenon, one of the largest contiguous plantings in the county. The ranch itself covers some 2,000 acres, with well over 700 planted to grapes. If you drive from Glen Ellen to Kenwood, much of the vine acreage you can see on the east side of the road is owned by the Kundes.

Until recently, however, most folks have seen only a hint of the size of the property, and that?s when they visit for tasting and to take winery tours. There has been scant public access to the remarkable hillside plantings and dramatic distant views.

That is changing. Jeff is eager to have people see the ranch and its views and landscape, just a few miles from where Jack London wrote novels. While the winery already offers programs such as Hike & Taste in the Vineyards and Jeff?s Eco-Tour Dog Hikes, he is in the process of developing additional vineyard tours to show off the property.

In addition, three years ago, the partners hired a new winemaker, Tim Bell, who had worked at Freemark Abbey in the Napa Valley. Today?s new Kunde releases are largely his creation and they are excellent.

Included are a wonderful dry 2008 Semillon ($17), a spicy raspberry-scented 2006 Zinfandel ($18), and a wonderfully aromatic grenache-based red blend called Valle de la Lune (Valley of the Moon), which sells for $24.

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