Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Kunin Wines

This past week, the wine world lost a dear friend. Seth Kunin was a talented winemaker, loving husband and father and friend to us all. His unexpected and untimely death has been a shock to everyone. Death is not easy for anyone and it is a sad time but it is also a time to celebrate him, remember his life and drink his wines. That is why this week the Please The Palate Pick of the Week is every wine made by Seth Kunin.

I first met Seth more than 15 years ago. He was the winemaker at Westerly Vineyards and also had his own label, Kunin Wines, in Santa Barbara. I was in the process of leaning about wine as I was also recovering from the dot-com world. Running a wine education business, I would take groups up to Santa Barbara for the day and we always stopped to see Seth. He would meet us at Central Coast Wine Services where he made his wine and would tour us through the facility.

In 2005, a weekend trip with some wine-industry girlfriends took us to Santa Barbara to the Central Coast Wine Classic. After the event, we ended up at Seth’s home in downtown Santa Barbara. I have such a vivid memory of the four of us going to the market to pick up groceries and then hanging out in the kitchen, drinking wine and making a delicious paella. Seth was a wonderful and talented cook to which many will attest.

Over the last five years, I would see Seth on various trips to Santa Barbara wine country. In addition to his eponymous label Kunin Wines, which he started in 1998, he and his wife Magan started The Valley Project in 2013. Kunin Wines specializes in Rhone varieties and The Valley Project features small production wines representing the different AVAs of Santa Barbara County.

Anytime I was in downtown Santa Barbara, I would stop by The Valley Project tasting room in the Funk Zone where Seth has a most impressive floor-to-ceiling chalk mural of Santa Barbara wine country. On more than one occasion, I would find him there pouring his wines and also saw his daughter Phoebe, who he so adored, playing or coloring in a corner and interacting with guests coming in for a tasting.

Seth was a wonderful winemaker and spokesperson about Santa Barbara Wine Country but he could also be found coordinating the sommeliers and wineries at large food and wine events such as Pebble Beach Food and Wine and LA Food and Wine. No matter how busy he was at these events, he always had a calm, cool and collected demeanor about him and would offer a hug hello when I saw him.

Last April, I traveled to the Rhone Valley for the first time for Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône. A lover and proponent of Rhone varieties, it was not a surprise to see Seth and Magan there. On one afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit Condrieu’s visionary Yves Cuilleron’s new winery. Seth and Magan were already there and it was a very special treat to spend the next couple hours walking through Cuilleron’s magnificent new space with Seth as they discussed different winemaking production techniques.

Then in May, working with the Santa Barbara Vintners on their Road Trip to LA, I spent a full day with Seth. First we were at the Rose Cafe in Venice for a rosé event where he appropriately dressed in a pink shirt as he poured his Kunin Wines Santa Ynez Valley Phoebe Rosé and Phoebe Rosé 2.0, both named after his daughter.

We then rushed downtown for dinner at Redbird with Chef Neal Fraser and guest Chef Fergus Henderson where his Kunin Wines 2015 Santa Barbara County Syrah and Kunin Wines 2013 Santa Barbara County Paradise Road Late Harvest Viognier were enjoyed by all and he shared stories about Santa Barbara wine country.

I, like everyone else who knew Seth, will carry each of our memories of him. He touched so many people’s lives. He was an icon in Santa Barbara and will be deeply missed. My love goes to his family, especially his wife Magan and daughter Phoebe. I raise a glass to you Seth and encourage everyone to do the same! You are missed!!

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