Kunin Wines Review
Address: 28 Anacapa Street Santa Barbara,California 93101.
Phone Number: 805-963-9696
Tasting Hours: 11:00-6:00
Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Review Date: 3/2/2013
The pace of Santa Barbara is about what you imagine from a surfer-friendly, wine-cultured seaside town with a year-round Mediterranean climate… it’s relaxed. Things open (more or less) right on time, no rush. Walking along the beach, it might strike you to make lower Anacapa street your destination for a relaxing wine tasting. You might venture off the sand, cross the oceanside street, and find yourself choosing which tasting room (or how many) to enter.
If you find yourself in this situation (make sure you appreciate the greatness of it, first), I highly recommend the experience of tasting the wines of Seth Kunin at his eponymous tasting room.
Entering the Kunin tasting room, you’ll get a clean feminine vibe from the light white palate and comfortable standards over the speakers. The large room is anchored by a horseshoe aluminum and cork bar that is well attended with a smile, where you can go through three separate tastings if you like (I recommend the Syrah Geek tasting for $12). Above the bar is a sign that reminds you to join the “coolest wine club in town,” which in itself reminds us that this is a place that takes itself only just seriously enough. If you want to grab a glass and sit, there are a few nice windows and comfortable places to enjoy your vino. I sat at the bar.
Bring your kids, there’s toys, and bring your pets, there’s room.
I arrived on a Tuesday at 11:30am (I have it from some very keen wine observers that this is the best time of day for the “awakened” palate). Heather greeted me with the ease of a comfortable tasting room veteran. She never pressed me to move quickly through the tastings (I like to take time with each pour, letting it breathe, open, and express itself over several minutes), and in fact seemed so cool and confident that I relaxed and really enjoyed the entire tasting experience.
I was first led through the most interesting white tasting on my trip. Beginning with a flinty, citrus-forward Sauvignon Blanc from Happy Canyon that showed grapefruit on the nose and some bright acid. I might have spent more time with it, but I already knew there’s a “natural” (unfiltered) Chenin Blanc – and I’m chomping to get to it. The murky yellow pour dials up the stinky, cheesy, gamey nose of a good unfiltered wine. If you’ve never tasted a good opaque Chenin Blanc, you are missing the whiskey of the wine world. This one is good. The wild yeast creates a wet grass – almost mossy palate. The texture is thick, complex, and just the right kind of weird. I love it, but it’s not for everyone. Make sure you try it though, because if it fits you… there’s not much like it, and I don’t want to bear the responsibility of you missing your chance.
The next white is a 2010 Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc that is filtered and fined. It shows more of the bruised red apple of the varietal, less peel and pit. It’s got good medium acid and a safe mouthfeel. It’s a secure return from the wildness of the unfiltered… like a warm bath after a weekend of cold camping. Next up was a 2009 Roussanne that reminded me of fresh white cupcakes… and who doesn’t like cupcakes?
I then bit into the reds, doing the Classic Red Tasting ($10), and the Syrah Geek Tasting ($12). I love Grenache blends, and I love Chateauneuf-du-Pape stylings; but the Syrahs here are really good… so I recommend the Syrah Geek if you only have time for one of the red tastings.
I tasted the 02 from Bien Nacido, the 05 from Santa Barbara/Alisos, and the 08 from Alysos/Larner/Paradise Road. It’s rare to have such a range in ages at a tasting. The age helps soften up the tannins, give more of that red brick coloring, and increase the longevity of the complexities in the wine. Basically, age makes a good wine feel wiser. Isn’t that a nice thought?
My favorite was the 05. I was looking around for a charcuterie plate with prosciutto to pair with it. The plum up front was a nice introduction, but the deep meaty structure and cough syrup mouthfeel brought a lot of tangents I wanted to explore with food. This is a bottle I’d enjoy taking home, decanting, and serving over a three course meal to close family.
While I fervently took notes and studied the wine, a happy couple on their escape from LA walked in and sat at the horseshoe bar to my left. We effortlessly fell into a communal conversation… tasting rooms are great places to meet the fun side of strangers. This room, I began to realize, is organized to create that fun kind of bar-wide banter.
This is the kind of place I’d recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy the community feeling of a good wine tasting. Because of its proximity to the beach, it fills up on weekends, so make sure you plan to spend some time. If you are in the mood to read a book and drink fine wine, then weekday afternoons might suit you like a glove.
There’s something for everyone at Kunin.