• Head-turning aromatics with uncommon elegance for the new world
• Cantaloupe, sourdough bread, lemon curd, and white flowers with pleasant texture
Beloved winemaker Seth Kunin passed away unexpectedly in October 2017, just as Kunin wines, the label he founded, was moving into its own winery space. "We had been making wine at Central Coast Wine Services since 1998," his wife and business partner Magan Eng explains. "We made great wines in 2016. It was an even, abundant vintage with really beautiful fruit quality, kind of like a dream. I did harvest, and I thought our winemaking life was evening out. We decided to get our own space. I didn't know what was coming," she says. "We had just moved into this facility in Goleta when Seth passed away. We had signed the lease, cut the floor drains, etc. And if that hadn’t been the case, I don’t know if I could have continued. 2017, outside of having him die, was a strange year. It was the first new year in a winery space, and we were trying to figure out temperature, humidity, air flow, etc. We had some VA and Brettanomyces show up, which has never happened. The shock—we were all reeling. It was Seth's last complete vintage. We also had the heat wave in 2017. Santa Barbara usually has a very even and long ripening season, and when that doesn't happen, you see it in the vintage. So, we had a lot of challenges. To me, this is a legacy, and I’m still discovering what that means. Our hopes and dreams were always to make really simple, approachable, balanced wines, which you know is a very difficult thing to do. We wanted to make elegant, long-lived wines that could cellar but provide value for money, not necessarily flashy. It’s important that our wines are alive and balanced, and I think noble rusticity is good—not dirty wines but that spirit you get in the wine." They don’t use a lot of new oak, and for the most part, grapes are 100% destemmed. "We are just trying to achieve our results by picking good sites, maintaining the purity of the fruit, making wines that are delicious and honest and exciting so people stay with us," she adds. "2018 was our first vintage at the winery without Seth, and I was really determined to go in and be studied about what we were looking for and what we wanted to happen. We waited and waited and waited. We make a wide variety of wines and are used to a long season, but the last five years, harvest has been earlier and earlier. In 2018, we were poised to start in August but didn't bring in anything until September 6th. I was holding my breath. It was definitely a waiting game, a game of chicken, but I'm very happy with the results. Clean, even fermentations. Now it's just taking care of everything in barrel. The final challenge will be blending. I have to remind myself that for Seth, he wore all this very easily."
• Vinous / Antonio Galloni: 92 Kunin's 2016 Pape Star Blonde (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne) is a rich, extroverted white with an almost red-wine sense of structure. Orange peel, apricot, chamomile, almond and floral notes envelop the palate, and yet the 2016 has just enough freshness to keep things in check.