Wine country hikes at Kunde Estate in Sonoma Valley, where dogs rule

Kunde Estate

This is not a wimpy, token ‘hike’, this is serious, get out in the fresh air, earn that gourmet dinner type of hike over the large and beautiful estate of Kunde Family Estate in Kenwood, Sonoma Valley. And for those of you who love to travel with your dogs, this hike is made for the both of you. Jeff and Roberta Kunde have always enjoyed walking their dogs on the property and decided last year to invite visitors to join them. The hike begins in the morning and lasts for about three hours, taking owners and their dogs over approximately three miles of rolling terrain. The hike is punctuated with short breaks where Jeff shares interesting facts about the estate’s history and sustainable winegrowing practices, as well as amusing anecdotes.

Hiking the Kunde property gives day-trippers and out-of-towners a sense of Sonoma Valley appellation. It has a different landscape than Napa Valley, with broader vistas and ancient oaks dotting the hillsides. It is also about 7-8 degrees cooler than Napa Valley being closer to the Pacific and lacking the barrier of the Mayacamas Mountains. The estate has distinctive red, iron-rich volcanic soils which constitutes 80% of that soil type in the Sonoma Valley appellation.

An appealing aspect of the hike beyond the scenic exercise is that it really is about the dogs. One would be hard pressed to find happier dogs than right here, walking the paths, romping in the open fields and diving into the ponds, all without reprimand. Attesting to the popularity of this hike, the event is always sold out, with fifty or sixty participants at a time. But don’t be put off by the numbers. The property is so large and the Kundes so relaxed about the hike that no one ever feels crowded or controlled. At the same time, there are enough staff and family members on hand to attend to any needs including providing water for the dogs along the way. On Saturday’s hike, it was striking given the number of dogs, how well-socialized all of them were.  On the eight dog hikes they have held, Jeff Kunde says they have never had a problem with the dogs brought by their owners.

A portion of the proceeds of fees and wine sales go to the Sonoma County Humane Society and to Canine Companions non-profit charities. On each dog hike, four or five dogs available for adoption join the group with the hope of meeting a prospective owner or sibling.  After the hike, a casual lunch and wines are served on the patio of the winery with representatives of the Humane Society introducing each of the dogs and sharing information about them. In addition to the human meal, there is a doggy diner of sorts, with special treats and seasoned waters for the dogs. 

In addition to being dog-lovers, advocacy of the Humane Society and Canine Companions are part of the Kunde’s sustainable winegrowing commitment which goes beyond responsible farming by addressing issues such as resource conservation, recycling, air quality and community well-being.  Kunde is one of 17 vineyard and winery organizations to have received Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing status out of over 1,500 participants in the  program.  With the property being run by the fourth generation of Kunde’s, it is clear to see why sustainability issues have such personal meaning for them.

Kunde also conducts regular Eco-tours which involve a slightly more challenging hike through the vineyards at higher elevation, with more information about Kunde’s sustainable winegrowing practices.

Kunde Family Estates, 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452. (707) 833-5501, email