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Sonoma Pioneer Bob Kunde Dies

Led family from grapegrowing to winemaking, but always thought of himself as a farmer and rancher

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: July 23, 2008

Arthur "Bob" Kunde, who founded Kunde Estate & Winery in Sonoma's Kenwood with his late brother Fred, died Friday, July 18, after complications from surgery. He was 80.

"Bob was about as salt of the earth as you can get," said Dick Arrowood, founder of Arrowood winery, who knew Kunde for more than 40 years. "He always had a big grin as wide as the outdoors and eyes that sparkled."

The Kunde family has been growing grapes for more than 100 years, beginning with Louis Kunde's purchase of the Wildwood Vineyard in 1904. Over the years, the Kundes have sold grapes to wineries such as Sebastiani, Bonny Doon, Beringer, Robert Mondavi and Arrowood. Bob and his brother Fred founded the family winery in 1990, focusing the brand on estate-grown wines. The family currently owns 1,850 acres in Sonoma, 700 of which are planted to 20 varieties of grapes, mostly Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Despite Kunde's impact on Sonoma's wine industry, his son Jeff said that his father thought of himself as a farmer and a rancher, and loved his volunteer work with the 4H society.

According to Jeff, Kunde was gardening at home when he fell and broke his arm and his hip about a week ago. Complications arose from the surgery and, Jeff said, "His body gave out on him."

Kunde's death rattled many in the industry. "We lose Bob Mondavi and we lose Bob Kunde and I don't want to think about who we lose next," said Arrowood.

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