Seth Kunin founded his eponymous winery Kunin Wines in 1998 with the aim of producing small production Rhone varietal wines. Until his untimely passing in 2017 at the age of 50 years, he was a highly respected member of the Santa Barbara wine community. As a talented winemaker, he was a mentor to many and was also an articulate spokesman for the wine industry as a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Vintner’s Association. We recently tasted the current releases of Kunin Wines in Santa Barbara.
This review includes the last wines produced by Seth Kunin which consist of single varietals and blends featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Zinfandel and Viognier. Several of his wines are also expressions of top single vineyards such Alisos, Jurrasic Park, and McGinley. The Kunin Wines are beautifuly made: rich in fruit, exemplary in varietal character, and wonderful food wines. In addition to winemaking, Seth was active in the restaurant industry and had fine taste in food and wine.
Kunin Wines produce about 5,000 cases annually. Seth’s wife and business partner Magan now manages the winery with help from her family. Jonathan St. Vincent serves as cellar master.
Kunin 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Mc Ginley Vineyard Happy Canyon ($26 ) 90 Rather ripe with a citrus and tropic fruit nose. Clean, fresh and mouth filling with a leesy character. Displays good weight and medium acidity.
Kunin 2015 Pape Star “blond” Santa Barbara County ($28) 92 This Rhone blend consists of 67% Grenache Blanc, 22% Roussanne and 11% Marsanne. It displays aromas of flowers and spice and is superbly flavored with hints of tropical and stone fruit notes on a ripe and leesy palate. An extra year of bottle aging provides added richness to the wine.
Kunin 2016 Natural Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley $35) 92 Sourced from old vines, this natural wine is crushed and de-stemmed like a red wine and is fermented with native yeast in open top fermenters and bottled without sulphur. Initially experimental, the wine is now in its fourth vintage. It exhibits a cloudy pale yellow robe and is very perfumed. It reveals a big and rich-tasting palate with good acidity and freshness. A delicious and innovative wine.
Kunin 2016 Viognier Camp 4 Vineyard ($50) 91 This Viognier offers lovely aromatic white flowers, pineapple and tropical fruit aromas and flavors with excellent acidity and freshness and a lush mouth feel. The vineyard was originally planted by Fess Parker in 1999. Historically, it served as the 4thstagecoach stop from San Francisco to Yuma, thus the name. The vineyard consists of 256 acres and straddles several microclimates. Viognier is one of nine grapes planted.
Kunin 2016 Pape Star Rhone Blend Santa Barbara County ( $28) 92 This is a southern Rhone style blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault. Aged in neutral oak, it is fresh and flavorful with clean flavors, spicy notes, and virtually no hints of oak. It has excellent acidity, soft round tannins and a long finish. A perfect bistro wine.
Kunin 2016 Mourvedre Santa Ynez Valley ($38) 92 Medium ruby. A savory wine of a variety that is not widely produced in Santa Barbara County. It offers classic flavors, no oak, simply pure fruit and wonderful wine at that. Light and delicate on the palate with a silky mouth feel.
Kunin 2016 Syrah Alisos Vineyard Santa Inez Valley ($50) 95 This Syrah was sourced from the magnificent high altitude Alisos Vineyard. t displays a ruby color and aromas of spicy smoked meat and black fruit. Aged 18 months in barrel, it is rich and mouth filling with round tannins and a long persistent finish. A terrific wine.
Kunin 2015 Zinfandel, Amador County ( $35) 91 This Zinfandel is sourced from 100 year old dry farmed vineyards (50 year-old vines). It is elegant and savory offering red berry fruit aromas and flavors with attractive spiciness. Medium bodied, it is beautifully balanced and elegant on the palate with a persistent finish.
*This article is the first in a series of reviews of Santa Barbara winemakers and wines being prepared by IWR for a new and expanded report on the wines of Santa Barbara. The IWR’s first report, The Wines of Santa Barbara, was issued in May 2013 and is available on www.i-winereview.com Plans are being made for the preparation of a new, expanded and updated report in 2020.