Seth Kunin, a Santa Barbara vintner known for championing cool-climate wines and the former general manager of the popular wine destination the Wine Cask Restaurant, died Oct. 28. According to Kunin’s wife, Magan, he suffered a heart attack and passed away in his sleep. He was 50.
“He was a big part of this community and a mentor to many … he was just a great guy,” said Doug Margerum, a Santa Barbara vintner and the Wine Cask's founder. “He played a lot of roles.”
Kunin founded his eponymous Kunin Wines in 1998, with a focus on small-production wines made from Syrah and other Rhône varieties, featuring single-vineyard expressions from well-known Santa Barbara vineyards such as Alisos, Stolpman, Jurrasic Park and Larner Vineyard. Kunin was also winemaker at Westerly Vineyards from 1999 to 2008, best-known for their expressive Sauvignon Blancs. In 2013, Seth and Magan founded a new brand called The Valley Project, which featured a popular tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
A native New Yorker, Kunin made his mark working in the restaurant scene in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. He was general manager of the Santa Barbara’s Wine Cask Restaurant when it received the Wine Spectator Grand Award in 1994.
In addition to his own brands, Kunin was heavily involved in the local wine community. He served on the board of the Santa Barbara County Vintner’s Foundation, Santa Barbara County Vintners Association and the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. He was also on the steering committee for the Central Coast Wine Classic and was a consultant with the Masters of Food & Wine, Pebble Beach Food & Wine and Los Angeles Food & Wine events.
According to Margerum, local winemakers are helping to finish the Kunin wines from the 2017 harvest. A memorial service is expected to be announced soon.