The wind was blowing and storm clouds threatened to dump when I arrived at La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard, and still I was inspired to wander. A murmuration of starlings greeted me, swirling and swooping over the winery. When they formed themselves into the shape of a wine bottle, and poured themselves back into the surrounding trees, I knew they were not merely showing off.
There was something magical about La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard.
Thanks to La Crema and Visit Santa Rosa for hosting me for a visit
I’m not a frequent vineyard visitor, but I’ve been to a few wineries and immediately La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard felt different. Non-institutional and personal. Everything about this property still bears the mark of the Kunde family, who left such an imprint on the place.
Walking into what once was the home of the family, I immediately felt welcome. There was a warm fire flickering in the fireplace and and wood beams for miles. Three stories up and a story down. This house, now the La Crema HQ, has had many lives, and there is a residue from the good living that still lingers and flavors the wine, as surely as an oak barrel.
First the house was a barn. And then it was converted into the sort of family home you normally would only see in a magazine or TV show.
This, I thought, is what a dream home looks like.
Despite all the wood and cozy atmosphere, La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard is filled with light. Enormous overhead windows and large glass doors leading out to view deck, bring the outdoors in. A unique chandelier on a pulley can be moved from eave to eave, lighting every part of the house as needed.
Our tour included a little bit of history about the home and a note about the use of the various spaces. His and hers kitchens, still get a workout when tasting events are hosted at the winery. Locals are frequent visitors, able to stop by and sample wines often. The property has alway been a cornerstone of the community and retains its name to honor its previous owner, Saralee Kunde, who passed away in 2014 at just 66. Together with her husband Richard Kunde, she was one of the most beloved forces in Sonoma County agriculture and good causes, from planting daffodils to many fundraisers and, especially, education for children. She was a major force in Future Farmers of America (FFA) — an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership and for 4-H, a youth development organization for youth ages 5-19 that promotes hands-on, experiential learning led by research-driven programming from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
I settled into a large down filled sofa, and began tasting. Visions of Mr Bean floated through my mind, and I attempted not to giggle when swirling and sniffing. I’m just not a wine critic. I’m more of a try-not-to-spill-on-the-white-couch type. But I do know what I like, and it’s never the cheap wine. In fact I have an uncanny ability to pick the most expensive bottle around, blindfolded. I was relieved to learn that while not “cheap” these wines were reasonably priced for the high quality.
This is where wine tasting became fun for me. Was that smoke, grass, spice, leather, coffee or red berries that I was tasting? I was immediately put at ease when I shared my novice nose and thoughts. No pretentiousness here and no wrong answers. You taste what you taste and you like what you like.
I liked almost everything I tasted, which was also a surprise. I should note I’m prone to headaches from red wine, in addition to being picky. Better wines don’t usually cause issues for me. No headache after tasting here.
Before visiting La Crema, I would not necessarily have put a winery on my vacation bucket list. It’s not that I don’t like wine, I just never saw myself as that much of an aficionado that I’d plan my trips around tasting wines.
But here, suddenly I get it. The history of the place. The agricultural pride. The stories. The property. The human touch and love and care that go into each bottle. Even though the property has changed hands and ownership, and is now owned by Jackson Family Wines, the warm community minded presence of the Kunde family is still present and felt. It’s all still there and it is still enchanting. Easy to see why one would want to wander about and settle in at this gorgeous property. I know I’ll be back.
Sonoma County Winegrowers will be launching a new Vineyard Adventures experience at the La Crema at Saralee’s Vineyard property, starting in a few weeks.
- Click through to learn about VIP tasting experiences you can book at the winery
- This link will tell you about upcoming events, including a Mother’s Day Brunch