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The Kunde Family Estate, Creating the New Signature Wine for Smith and Wollensky

Sauvignon Blanc Joins the Restaurant's Line of Private Reserve Wines

Choosing a private reserve wine is serious business at Smith & Wollensky. After all, it’s their reputation on the line.

Which is why, when developing a signature white wine, the company turned to the Kunde Family Estate in Sonoma County. It’s a sister property to Girard Winery, where Winemaker Zach Long was part of the team, led by Headwinemaker Marco DiGiulio, that put together Smith & Wollensky’s private reserve red, a Meritage blend from Girard similar to the winery’s flagship blend Artistry.

Long, who is now Director of Winemaking at Kunde, was at Girard for the past seven years; as a result, he said is “quite familiar” with the Smith & Wollensky wines. “They came to us looking to develop a Sauvignon Blanc similar to the Girard style,” he said. “Kunde is a large, beautiful estate that has the ability to grow this, and it’s sustainably farmed.

“You hear a lot of buzzwords around sustainability and organic,” he pointed out. “Kunde was one of the first estates to be certified sustainable by the State of California. It’s in every part of the business. This has been a family property since 1904. You have generations of Kunde’s working here.”

Long mentored under DiGiulio, Chief Winemaking Overlord at Vintage Wine Estates, and worked alongside Glenn Hugo, the current Winemaker for Girard. He pointed with pride to the sustainability practices of the Kunde Family Estates.

“Sustainability is important when you pass down a property like this,” he continued. “You know you are handing down your family’s land to your children. That is why sustainability is so important; the mindset encompasses the entire business, and is a big part of why they continue to put out quality product year in, year out.”

Current Chairman Jeff Kunde, who is part of the fourth generation of Kundes behind its 1,850 acres, agreed with the importance of sustainability when it comes to creating good wines. He said, "2012 will mark the Kunde family's 108th harvest, here in the beautiful Sonoma Valley.  Sustainable farming has become an integral part of both our winery and vineyards operation and has had a clear impact on the quality of the fruit we grow. By being 100% Certified Sustainable, we ensure that our lands are healthy and will be enjoyed by future generations."  

And, it’s that kind of commitment that led to Smith & Wollensky going back to this family of properties for its new signature white, a Sauvignon Blanc.

Long said, “Essentially they wanted a varietal wine with ripe flavors. What they asked us for was more guava characteristics but with balanced acidity so the wine would be nice, clean and bright on the palate.”

To accomplish that, the Winemaker said they allowed the grapes to “hang on the vineyard an extra week or so.” He said, “That allows the flavors to mature and gives a little more ripe flavor profile. Sunlight exposure helps flavor maturity, giving more tropical flavor characteristics. The amount of exposure to sunlight is important in modern winemaking. Ultimately, that’s what drives the flavor.”

The people at Smith & Wollensky actually went to Sonoma Valley for a tasting, and chose the wine specifically to enhance their seafood selections. Long said, “The acid structure of this wine works really well with all seafood, plus the lighter white meats like pork. You get a little bit broader ability to pair this because of its fruitiness and ripe flavors.”

The Sauvignon Blanc is tank fermented, in 100% stainless steel tanks rather than barrels, to keep the bright flavor. “With this style of Sauvignon Blanc, a barrel can cause a wine to lose the subtle nuances and aeromatics,” said Long. “What we were looking to do was keep the bright, crisp, zest of this wine.”

He also pointed out that the wine has what is known as a “long finish.” Long said, “With a food wine, you want it to linger a little, hang on the palate. This has enough richness that you do still taste it after you actually swallow.  It creates a lasting experience while you enjoy your food—it’s not just instantly gone.”

Stu Roy, National Beverage Director for Smith & Wollensky, said, “We’re thrilled to introduce the new ‘Private Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc.” He called it “crisp, elegant and fresh, with citrus, ripe mango and melon notes.” Roy added, “It has great balance with an extremely long finish and pairs nicely with fresh seafood and the Signature Shellfish Bouquet.”

The new signature wine is part of the samplings presented each day during Wine Week, which runs through March 9, 2012 at Smith & Wollensky.

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