The next time you visit Sonoma County, be sure to schedule some time to wine taste at the La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard. Located in a celebrated building transformed into a stunning wine tasting room, La Crema provides the perfect place to spend an afternoon. You’re sure to enjoy the wines and the surroundings. But you’ll love the history of this place too.
Known throughout Sonoma County, Saralee Kunde worked as a tireless promoter of the county’s grapes, wines, milk, and other bounties. A generous philanthropist, Saralee also inspired others to donate to a myriad of causes and preserve Sonoma County’s ranch-and-farmlands. Consequently, she earned a reputation as the “Godmother of Good Deeds.”
Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard
Richard Kunde hailed from a long line of grape growers and winemakers. He decided not to join the family business and went on his own. In 1988, Richard and Saralee became grape growers on a 265-acre vineyard estate on Slusser Road behind the Sonoma County Airport.
The estate’s historic barn dates back to 1900. The centerpiece of the estate, known as “Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard,” became a private park that they shared generously with the community. It provided a space where millions of dollars were raised for local causes, famous parties took place, and the Kunde’s raised a family. The Kundes were known throughout the county as pillars of the community.
Transforming the Estate into La Crema’s Tasting Room
When the Kundes approached La Crema about purchasing the property, La Crema jumped at the opportunity. The winery launched a 3-year rehabilitation of the barn. Today this place of local significance houses the La Crema Estate tasting room. Its open design includes floor-to-ceiling glass and spacious wrap-around outdoor seating. It provides visitors with views of rolling hills planted with row after row of vineyards surrounding a nearby pond.
The legacy of its historic barn continues to serve as a place of community. Transformed into a stunning multi-level tasting room, a sense of history and love still lingers. If you sit quietly for a moment, you can still feel the spirit of Richard and Saralee. You might even hear laughter and the clink of glasses from parties of the past.
La Crema Wines
La Crema wines are inspired by Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wine maker produces them in small lots to nurture distinct flavors and balance. Initially, the winery focused on developing wines from the Sonoma Coast. Today, they produce wines from grapes grown in Monterey and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But my favorite wines still hail from the Saralee’s Vineyard.
The 2017 Saralee’s Vineyard Chardonnay is aromatic and flavorful. Notes of lightly toasted oak in the nose are followed by Gravenstein apple, Meyer lemon, and baked pear. A hint of herbaceous flavors adds to its complexity.
The 2016 Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir displays aromas of red currant and dark cherries. It’s precisely what I would expect from this cool-climate Pinot. Flavors of black plum, pomegranate, and cranberry come through. The wine presents a delicate structure and refined tannins.
But don’t let me dissuade you from trying their many other lovely wines. The 2017 Kelli Ann Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay, the 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, the 2018 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, and the 2017 Sealift Pinot Noir also provide a delightful variety of wines.
Options for Tasting
The seated tasting, $30 per person or complimentary for wine club members, provides tasting on the outdoor patio/balcony overlooking the vineyards. Tastings include six wines.
Picnic tables set away from the tasting room may be reserved for $50, complimentary for wine club members. And guests can purchase a bottle of wine and bring food of their own.
Or reserve a tour of the vineyard, followed by a seated tasting, for $75 per guest. Wine club members receive a discount.
Ask your server about cheese and charcuterie boards for purchase. Reservations required. And there’s no charge for the hummingbird at the outdoor balcony, so fleeting and shiny crimson red, like the wine.
If You Go
So take an afternoon and treat yourself to a visit to La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard. Ask your server to tell you a few of the stories about the famous parties or the food that poured out of Saralee’s kitchen with each community event. Take a peek at the treehouse alongside the second story. Walk down the road a few short steps and wonder at the old truck falling halfway into the creek bed. There’s a story behind that one too. You’ll love the wines, and you’re sure to appreciate the history of this iconic location.