On October 28 2017 the Santa Barbara community learned of the passing of winemaker Seth Kunin. He was 50 years old.
Seth had been a part of wine in Santa Barbara for decades, including managing the Wine Cask restaurant in the mid 1990s. It was a call in 1997 from friend Steve Clifton, of Brewer Clifton and Palmina, to help with a small wine project that gave Seth the winemaking bug. His first official release was the following year and the Kunin label was born mostly around Rhône varieties.
He met his wife Magan while on a distribution trip to Chicago in 2004. They fell in love over the first blending and release of ‘Pape Star’, his hommage to Châteauneuf du Pape wines, now a cornerstone of the brand. We have to acknowledge his vision, being one of the first wineries to open a tasting room in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara back in 2006. It is still there, open every day. Magan and Seth married in 2008 and his now 8-year-old daughter Phoebe was born soon after. In 2013 they founded another label called The Valley Project and opened a modern tasting room around the corner from the Kunin location.
My first New Year’s Eve after party in Santa Barbara was spent at that Valley Project location, a memorable way to sunset 2013 and sunrise 2014. Thanks for hosting Magan and Seth.
In 2017 they built a new winemaking facility in Goleta. The entire 2017 vintage was almost done, ready for that final dive into barrel, to start relaxing as winter approached. With the news, a score of close winemaking friends signed off a chunk of their already minimal hours of sleep during the harvest season and signed up to take over the final touches needed to ensure the Kunin and Valley Project vintage was complete. A tip of the hat to Graham Tatomer, Josh Klapper, and Drake Whitcraft.
In reading all the tributes, the best quote about Seth came from his wife Magan, “If you could measure life in dinner parties, he lived three lifetimes.”