Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN

These Boots Were Made for Eco Trekking

Green-themed hikes give visitors a new view of wine country

Time was, a routine visit to a winery involved a few tastes, a brief chat with a bored-looking tasting room employee and an uneventful “tour” of the spot’s garish gift shop. Deluxe tours might’ve involved slightly more animated interactions with employees, the occasional glimpse into a barrel room or winemaking facility and, for a suitably hefty additional price, tastes of “reserve” or “limited release” wines.

But please, people: these cookie cutter visits were SO last year.

Nowadays, not only is it possible to score WAY more personalized perks such as face time with elusive winemakers, you can also go behind the scenes to explore the vineyards and grounds of some wineries courtesy of custom programs they’ve designed to show off their operations.

There’s just one caveat: you’ve got to work for some of these perks.

Taking Tasting to New Heights
In the case of Kunde Estate Winery’s new Eco Tours and Sustainable Winegrowing Hikes, that means strapping on your hiking boots for a 1,400 foot climb up the Mayacamas Mountains to get a first-person view of the operation’s vineyards and green winemaking practices.

Led by fourth generation winegrower Jeff Kunde, the more than hundred-year-old winery’s innovative Eco Tour concludes its four-hour trek with a gourmet lunch and wine tasting atop the mountains overlooking Sonoma Valley. Along the way, participants learn about the philosophy behind sustainable farming and explore some of the 1,850-acre estate’s unique habitats, watersheds and ecosystems.

“There’s no better way to understand the benefits of sustainability than to see them first-hand. And people love getting outside and connecting with the place in a much more tactile way,” explains Marcia Kunde Michelson of Kunde’s motivation for offering the hikes.

What Does It Mean to Go Green?
Thanks to Kunde’s admirable Green Team program, the winery was recently awarded its Second Level Green Business Certification from the San Francisco Bay Area Green Business Program, making it one of only a handful of wineries in the area to be singled out for its commitment to sustainability.

Sustainable farming, unlike organic farming, strives to utilize all resources related to the production of a product in a responsible, renewable way. Resource conservation, consideration for surrounding environments and habitats and the health and well being of the folks who tend the vines are just a few of the hallmarks of sustainability. In a nut-shell, it’s a long-term philosophy that aims to ensure we can continue to enjoy the fruits of these folks’ labor for years to come.

When & How Can I Go Green?
Kunde’s Eco Tours require advance registration and a fee of $75, which covers lunch and wine. They’ll be offered four times this year, on May 5, June 2, August 25 and October 20. Sustainable Winegrowing Hikes are free of charge (which means you bring your own sack lunch, natch) and will be led by Sonoma Valley docent Bill Myers, an expert on the area and sustainability, on May 12, June 9, July 14, August 11, September 8, October 13, November 10 and December 8. For more information and to sign up, visit

Oh, and don’t forget your boots.