Winding through scenic Russian River Valley vineyards, you pull up to DRNK Wines; a site that reminds you of the Wine Aging Caves at Kunde Family Estate Winery in Kenwood and the history of this 5th generation Kunde winemaker, Ryan Kunde. Ryan not only brings a rich family history of excellent wines to his new family enterprises with Dale and Nancy Dougherty and his wife Katie, but also fresh eyes and an adventurous spirit.
I stopped by today admist the craziness of a small working winery preparing for their first public event – the Russian River Valley Pinot Classic. Surely pinotphiles will find this off-the-beaten-track winery since it received an astonishing 97 points (gold medal) for their inaugural 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir “Cavers Cuvee” last week at the Press Democrat’s North Coast Wine Challenge.
Additionally, DRNK Wines will be pouring 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay “Catie’s Corner Vineyard,” 2012 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Gris “Morning Sun Vineyard” ‘Orange Wine,’ 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir “Hallberg Vineyard” (my favorite), and their newest releases 2013 Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir and 2013 Russian River Valley Viognier “Catie’s Corner Vineyard.” I have also heard they will be offering futures on their 2013 Pinot Noir.
Ryan brings a history of winemaking and hard work and blends it with fruit grown in some of the best Sonoma County vineyards epitomizing the diverse strengths of this region. Ryan is intimately involved in the vineyards from the inception through harvest with a blend of hands-on knowledge and modern technology. See the drones he flies over vineyards to assess the fruit development from a unique prospective.
This involvement continues through crush as each lot is carefully hand harvested and sorted in the vineyard and again at the winery before crushing. All fermentations are carried out in small batches and punched down by hand. The wines are then transferred to barrels in the underground cellar, an ideal winemaking environment.
It is a fabulous place to visit, to get up-close and personal with a winemaker who moves comfortably from the vineyard to the lab to the cellar.
Ryan’s combination of modern technology, hands-on work, and old-school knowledge is engaging as he talks about the wine he has lovingly crafted. Both Ryan and Katie are warm, friendly and down-right nice.
Although, the caves aren’t being used for the Pinot Classic (they will be hosting this event outdoors) they are worth a separate outing. I love barrel tasting with this fascinating winemaker as he interweaves stories of the wines development with a history of Sonoma County and its vineyards. Have him tell you about riding on the machine that cut this cave when it built the Wine Aging Cave at the Kunde Family Estate 20 some years ago.
Katie tells me they will have their 3-D printer on hand during the Russian River Pinot Classic and can make wine charms for your glass – technology at its best!
Also don’t forgot to order your 2013 futures that day.
Speaking of futures, you might also get a peak at the 2014 Dougherty-Kunde release, Henry David Kunde, the newest 6th generation Kunde.
It is still too early to tell if he will follow in his family’s footsteps.
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