MIKE SULLIVAN - WINEMAKER, GM/CO-OWNER, BENOVIA WINERY
Ben Dewane and Novian Anderson never met, yet they raised their children with similar old-fashioned values. Hard work brings its own rewards, they would say. Be the best at what you do. Surround yourself with good people, and let them get to work. And never, ever produce anything that wouldn't make you proud.
With such similar family backgrounds, it's no wonder Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane would eventually find each other and marry. Together, they began a journey that led them to establish a winery that would make them, and their fathers, proud -- proud enough that the Benovia name pays homage to Ben and Novian.
Their journey also inspired Joe and Mary to assemble the best possible team of respected winemaking professionals. They partnered with Mike Sullivan, one of northern California's top winemakers, and someone who shares their passions for quality. With Mike as Benovia's co-owner, general manager and winemaker, they brought on Christy Simon as CFO to manage the financial side of the business. To bring even more depth to the winery operations, Chris Kangas was hired as vineyard manager and Bob Cooley as the VP of Sales and Marketing. All good people who together make an even better team.
"At Benovia, our team is an extension of an extraordinary family," says Joe, "a family that eats, drinks, and breathes a lifelong passion for wine."
That passion led to the purchase of the renowned Cohn Vineyard atop a mountain near Healdsburg, where the couple lives, and led to a new winery in the heart of the Russian River Valley. The journey will continue with an exciting new Pinot Noir vineyard near Freestone, and the Martaella ranch (named after Joe and Mary's mothers), surrounding the winery itself.
Joe and Mary have invested in all the right things to make Benovia flourish-vineyards with unique terroir and a well equipped winery. But their most important investment is people.
"We see these people as the soul of Benovia," says Joe. "Mary and I trust in their passion and in what they bring to the wine. They expect a lot of themselves, and they expect it from each other. We like to call them 'Benovians.' I think our fathers would be proud of them."
At Benovia Winery, we embrace the time-honored philosophy that it takes great vineyards and great people to make great wine. Each of our wines is handcrafted to showcase the uniqueness of our estate vineyards or to explore diverse expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Russian River Valley and beyond. Our winemaking team is a group of accomplished professionals with some 150 years of combined experienced led by Benovia Co-owner & Winemaker/General Manager Mike Sullivan.
It Starts in the Vineyard
In the vineyard, our goal is to know each vineyard block and its special qualities, to attentively meet each vine's needs, and to promote optimum ripeness and flavor development. Every day, Benovia straddles the line between innovation and tradition.
We have made a significant financial investment in upgrading our vineyards with the latest farming and irrigation technology, but we rely more on knowledge, instinct and experience to handcraft Benovia's exceptional, high quality wines. At harvest time, Mike Sullivan can be found in the vineyards, tasting the grapes and making the critical decisions on when to pick and when to wait. The grapes are harvested at night or early morning to ensure that they arrive at the winery in peak condition.
In the Winery
The process of creating Benovia's flagship Pinot Noir wines begins with careful and attentive hand labor. The grapes are conveyed to the destemmer with a sorting table. Each cluster is inspected by hand prior to destemming. A second sorting area allows us to inspect each berry after destemming. Nothing goes into the fermentation tank that isn't ideally ripe and free of debris. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape, and needs to be treated gently to produce wines with power and finesse.
After a pre-fermentation maceration of five to eight days, we allow the indigenous yeast to complete fermentation and encourage very long, slow malolactic fermentation. Employing the full knowledge of fermentation science, we can control quality without too much handling, preserving the character of the wine.
After settling, the juice (now called "must") is moved to French oak barrels to ferment at a cool temperature for approximately four to six weeks. The barrels are inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and the lees are stirred weekly until the process is complete. This method helps the malolactic fermentation, integrates the new oak, and builds body and structure in the wine.
Our Chardonnay grapes follow a similar process with the same care and feeding in the vineyard and gentle handling at the winery. After hand-sorting, the clusters are transferred directly to press. Whole cluster pressing helps minimize the amount of harsh malic acid and astringent tannins that naturally exist in the skins, seeds and stems from entering the wine.
The Zinfandel grapes we grow at our historic Cohn Vineyard are also harvested whole cluster, sorted, destemmed, and then berry sorted before going to press.
Our wines spend 14 to 16 months aging in French oak barrels until they are ready to be bottled and labeled at our winery.
"What I love about winemaking is that perfection is unattainable," says Mike Sullivan. "Winemaking is about the journey and not the destination."
JEFF KUNDE – CHAIRMAN, KUNDE FAMILY WINERY
THE KUNDE FAMILY:
For over a century, five generations of the Kunde Family have farmed our 1,850 acre-estate in the heart of Sonoma Valley—a truly remarkable legacy in the modern age of California winemaking. A fervent, forward-thinking vision of land stewardship and sustainability began over one hundred years ago, and has been shaped with each successive generation.
Today, Kunde Family Winery is still family owned and operated with a hands-on team of 4th and 5th generation family members at the helm. At the end of the day, every decision we make, every wine we craft, and every experience we provide honors the legacy of founder Louis Kunde, who emigrated from Germany and purchased the original Wildwood Vineyards ranch at the turn of the century in 1904. Cresting the second century was a profound milestone for the family. Moving forward, we remain committed to innovation and state-of-the-art facilities, while also maintaining a deep, personal commitment to sustainable winegrowing and preserving the land for generations to come.
HISTORIC RANCH & VINEYARDS
The very heart of Kunde Family Winery is Wildwood Vineyards, a 1,000-acre parcel bought by Louis Kunde in 1904 and planted with imported cuttings from renowned producers, Chateaux Margaux and Lafite Rothschild. Wildwood Vineyards, and the establishment of the winery, was just the beginning of a now fifth-generation legacy. Upon Louis' death in 1922, the winery and vineyards were passed down to his son, Arthur “Big Boy” Kunde. Big Boy kept the winery open during the difficult times of Prohibition and World War II.
In 1977, as the wine business was catapulted into the modern era, Bob and Fred Kunde expanded on their father’s entrepreneurial passion by acquiring the neighboring 850-acre Kinneybrook Ranch. Planting hundreds of acres to classic varietals, their hard work and savvy business decisions laid the groundwork for what Kunde Family Winery is today.
Bonded Winery 202
Louis Kunde established one of the first wineries to be bonded by the state of California in the early 1900’s. Now, with California bond numbers in the tens of thousands, this bond number is a testament to the Kunde family legacy, not only in Sonoma Valley, but also the entirety of California winemaking history. Today, the new, state-of-the-art Kunde Family Winery is a symbol of the past and a nod to the future, proudly bearing the estate’s century-old Bonded Winery Number 202.
KUNDE WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY
Winemaker taking barrel samples at Kunde WineryAt Kunde Family Winery, our winemaking mission is to craft elegant wines with a real sense of place—beautifully balanced and expressive of our dramatic vineyard landscape.
As 100% estate produced wine, each bottle speaks to the distinct soil, climate and topography of our fifth generation sustainably farmed property, nestled in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Nature is the dominant force in our terroir-driven winemaking approach. Sun-drenched days, moderated by cool coastal fog and southerly wind, combine with volcanic gravelly soils and dramatic topography. The result is an ideal backdrop for creating balanced fruit, and full-flavored, complex wines. As winemakers and stewards of the land, we guide the process from vine to bottle by promoting healthy vineyards, walking every row, and sampling every barrel.
Each fall, grapes are hand-harvested in small batches during the cool early morning hours, then gently crushed and de-stemmed at the winery. We employ classic winemaking techniques for all of our estate wines, including the use of native yeasts during fermentation, sur lie aging prior to racking to enhance complexity and depth, and barrel aging in a mix of French, European and American oak for overall balance in the final blend.
Fourth Generation Winegrower Jeff Kunde’s deep, personal and forward-thinking commitment to the
land he grew up on is key to Kunde Family Estate’s sustainable winegrowing initiatives. In 2006, to
educate the public on sustainable winegrowing practices, Jeff developed the “Green Eco-Tours”
program, offering wine and environmental enthusiasts an insider’s exploration of the family’s
commitment to environmental sustainability throughout Kunde Family Estate’s winegrowing, land
management and winery operations. The tours climb from the Sonoma Valley floor up 1,400 feet
through the vineyards and into the Mayacamas Mountain range, allowing sights of wildlife and
panoramic views of the breathtaking scenery of Sonoma Valley.
Jeff Kunde is Chairman of the Board for Kunde Family Estate. He also travels throughout the United States to promote the Kunde Family Estate brand of signature wines and its winegrowing legacy. Jeff
has served as a Board of Director for many different industry boards throughout the State and County. He remains actively involved in the community. In 2007, Jeff was elected as a Trustee for the Santa Rosa Junior College where he is currently Board President. He received his B.S. in Agriculture from California State University, Chico. Jeff lives with his wife, Roberta and has three children that are working in the wine industry.