Kundes selling Saralee's Vineyard and Richard's Grove to Jackson Family Wines

  • 7/14/2010: D3:
    PC: Saralee Kunde removes leaves from Pinot gris a white wine grape at the family vineyards on Slusser Road in Santa Rosa, Tuesday July 6, 2010. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2010

Jackson Family Wines announced a deal Thursday to buy the sprawling Russian River Valley ranch owned by Saralee and Richard Kunde, who hosted some of the region's most popular fundraisers among their vineyards and helped raise millions of dollars for the agriculture community.

The 260-acre site off Slusser Road includes Richard's Grove and Saralee's Vineyard, where the Kundes planted grapes in 1988. Today, it has more than 200 acres of top-quality vineyards, including more than 50 clonal selections of grapes sold to 45 wineries.

"We've sourced grapes from this property for many years and know first-hand Saralee's and Richard's commitment to quality," Barbara Banke, chairman of Jackson Family Wines, said in a statement.

The sale is expected to close in early December. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"Richard and I are both very, very happy," Kunde said. "We've met with the whole (Jackson) family, and they have a lot of the same philosophies as far as sustainable winegrowing, and they, I think, will be very good stewards of the land."

The long-term contracts on the grapes also were sold, and Jackson Family Wines plans to honor those contracts, Kunde said. The Kundes kept about 80 acres of vineyards, and plan to continue selling grapes to 15 wineries, including Jackson Family Wines.

"We definitely don't want to be out of the grape-growing business," Kunde said. "I love it, and my husband does too. It's been a way of life."

When the couple bought the property, the five-acre grove was a mass of poison oak and blackberry brambles. Richard Kunde, a horticulturist inspired by Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, transformed the area, planting hydrangeas and rhododendrons amid the oaks and redwoods.

Over the next two decades, the family turned the ranch into one of Sonoma County's best-known vineyards, both for the grapes they produced and the charity events they hosted.

About a year ago, after the 2011 harvest, the Jackson family approached the Kunde family about buying the property, Kunde said. The offer came as the Kunde family was ready to downsize, Saralee Kunde said.

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