Sonoma Valley Pioneer Bob Kunde Dies at 80

Industry bids farewell to co-founder of Kunde Estate & Winery.


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Arthur "Bob" Kunde, who founded Kunde Estate & Winery with his late brother, Fred, in 1990, died last Friday, July 18.

Kunde was not largely known to the wine drinking public, preferring to leave a younger generation of Kundes as the winery's faces. He preferred to run his cattle, and was a past-president of the Sonoma-Marin Cattlemen's Association. But as the family's third generation to farm Sonoma Valley, he and Fred were largely responsible for restoring Sonoma Valley's modern reputation as a prime source of high-end grapes and premium wines.

The Kunde family first planted grapes on their property in the little village of Kenwood back in 1904. In 2004, the family celebrated the 100th anniversary of their grape harvest. But it fell to Bob and Fred to expand their vineyard holdings significantly in the 1960s and 1970s. They sold the grapes to others, especially Sebastiani, for years, until the brothers—tired of seeing other wineries getting recognition for the quality of the wines made from their fruit—decided to start their own.

By the early 1990s, Kunde wines began to be recognized for their quality and also for their fair pricing, a reputation that has expanded until today across the many varieties they grow. The estate, familiar to anyone who drives along the scenic Valley of the Moon highway through Sonoma Valley, now consists of over 700 acres of planted vines, rising to 1,200 feet in the Mayacamas Mountains.

Bob Kunde was 80 and chairman emeritus of the winery.

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