Historical and Authentic, the Kunde Family is Ready for the Future
Article and Photo By Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Production Editor
Published August 1, 2015
|Marica Kunde Mickelson and Jeff Kunde outside of Kunde Family Winery in Kenwood.|
Kunde Family Winery is known for their authenticity. Their first crush was in 1904, and they’re one of the oldest bonded wineries in California, using bond number 202, which was first put to use by their Great Grandfather Louis Kunde in the early 1900’s. Now, the fourth and fifth generation of Kundes are successfully carrying on the Kunde Family Legacy.
The Kunde Family takes pride in their heritage. From the vineyards planted as far back as 1882 to their renowned Hereford cattle, people come from all over the world just to get a glimpse and tour the historic and beautiful Kunde Estate and destination inspired Kunde Family Winery in Kenwood.
While proud of their history, they are also making bold choices for their future. In 2009, they began a vineyard redevelopment program to take full advantage of the diversity of their property. New and heritage clones were planted, trellis systems were revamped, increased vine density was utilized, and many farming and harvesting protocols were modernized. To showcase the higher quality fruit that their estate vineyards are now producing, they have also recently designed new packaging for their estate wines, paving the way forward for their premium brand.
Over the years, Kunde Family Winery has created distribution throughout the United States and well as many export markets. A renewed emphasis has been placed on the Consumer Direct segment of their business with continual development of their visitor’s center. While eight wines are sold nationally to on and off premise accounts, they produce more than 25 unique skus which are available only through their wine club, tasting room and website.
Their wines are crafted by Winemaker Zachary Long from seventeen different varietals grown on 700 acres of the 1,850 acre Kunde Estate. Their brand is 100% estate grown, which allows them to control their vines and wines from bud break to bottle for a more consistent product year after year. Kunde Family Winery produces more than 75,000 cases a year under the Kunde Brand using approximately 60% of the fruit from their vineyards. They sell the remaining 40% to a select group of premium wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. In addition to the Kunde Brand, they also produce wine for large retail partner Costco, under the Kirkland Brand, as well as Trader Joes.
For the Kunde Family, water has become a challenge and government regulations are a daily concern. Marcia Kunde Mickelson, a 4th generation family member and the winery’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasizes how the Farm Bureau jumps headfirst into issues and are proactive at the local, state and federal levels.
“Even though we are a medium sized winery, we simply cannot just think locally anymore. Community, state, national and international experiences affect our business on a daily basis. If you are producing an agriculture product, you must think and operate globally,” said Mickelson. “The Farm Bureau operates with a unifying voice and represents not only the smallest of farmers but the large producers of all ag commodities, wine being one of them. From my experience, I have seen the Farm Bureau work closely with elected officials to help create the best solutions to issues that would potentially have a detrimental impact to agriculture. To me, they are a solid, strong voice of the ag industry – and a collective voice at that. Kunde can only belong to so many trade associations, and we feel strongly that the Farm Bureau is not only a great association for us to be involved with but a strategic one as well.”
The Kunde Family continues to adapt and evolve, always ready for what the future holds and remaining relevant in an ever competitive industry. They have a succession plan in place for the 5th generation which encourages their children to gain experience outside the Kunde winegrowing business. Today several of the younger generation can be found working at the winery while others are pursuing their careers within the industry at outside companies.
“We like to have fun, we like to work hard,” said Mickelson, “and we like our employees to work hard and have fun with us. When we succeed, we all succeed together.”