Respected Santa Barbara winemaker Seth Kunin died from a heart attack on October 28. He was 50.
Kunin is best known for the eponymous wine brand he started in 1998. Kunin Wines became one of the first in a wave of tasting rooms to open in Santa Barbara’s now bustling Funk Zone in 2008. Kunin doubled down on the Funk Zone by opening a second tasting room called The Valley Project in 2013, eventually moving his family into the condo above.
He also made Westerly Wines for 10 vintages and served as the production coordinator at Central Coast Wine Services for many years. He opened a new winery in Goleta this year and was finishing the 2017 harvest when he died.
He is survived by his wife and business partner, Magan Eng, and an 8-year-old daughter Phoebe.
The New York-raised Kunin, began his career in hospitality, working in restaurants while studying at UCLA. In 1991, he became general manager of the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, eventually lifting that restaurant’s wine list to one of the top 100 in the nation.
He started making wine with Steve Clifton (of Brewer-Clifton and Palmina wine brands) in 1997. Kunin served as a consultant or served the boards of a number of wine events around the country including the Central Coast Wine Classic, Masters of Food & Wine, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, and Los Angeles Food & Wine.
His wife plans to keep Kunin’s wine projects intact. Many colleagues have stepped up to help finish this year’s vintage.