On these trips I visit old friends and develop new ones. After hearing me boast about the greater Birmingham area’s savvy as a food and wine city, some winemakers take me up on my invitation to visit Birmingham. Legendary winemakers, such as Hugh Davies, Ed Sbragia and Jan Shrem are among them.
Most recently our city had the honor of hosting Tim Bell, Director of Winemaking Operations for Kunde Family Estates, which is a fifth-generation, family-owned, Sonoma Valley wine estate. And the highlight of Bell’s trip was a private, winemaker dinner with the Birmingham Chapter of the International Wine and Food Society (IW&FS), held upstairs at Veranda On Highland.
Bell began his wine career in 1992 at U. C. Davis as the first scholarship recipient of the International Wine & Food Society of America, Incorporated. He graduated with honors in 1994 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science with an emphasis in Enology.
Kunde Estate is comprised of 1,850 contiguous acres in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, with 700 acres planted to eighteen different varieties of wine grapes. “Kunde Estate’s facilities and vineyards are a winemaker’s dream,” says Bell. “Access to 700 acres and 18 varietals of sustainably grown wine grapes for your winemaking repertoire is an incredible position to be in. The Kunde family has spent more than a century thoughtfully planting vineyards and developing winemaking facilities and barrel aging caves that are second none.”
Two Kunde Chardonnays were poured for the dinner. Kunde Chardonnay 2006 ($9.50) offers aromas of dough leading to flavors of baked apples and pears with a hint of vanilla. And Reserve Chardonnay 2004 ($19.99) is complex and bold with notes of Asian pear, baked apple and butterscotch.
Four other Kunde wines were also poured. Aromas of boysenberry are upfront in the Kunde Zinfandel 2005 ($11.75), leading to bold berry flavors and notes of chocolate and pepper. In the Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($14.99), rich black raspberry aromas meet layers of black cherry flavors, with a hint of fennel and anise.
And the Kunde Reserve Cabernet 2003 ($39.99) is rich and dense with aromas and flavors of blackberries, spice and chocolate.
For each wine, Veranda On Highland’s executive chef, Tom Robey prepared a delectable dish. And second to none was the wine dinner’s second course pairing. Robey’s Coriander Dusted Louisiana Brown Shrimp met its match with Kunde Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($11.25). The shrimp was enhanced by tasty accompaniments of mirliton and cilantro slaw, smoked jalapeno and avocado coulis, and grilled chilies. The crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc and its refreshing, cool flavors of cantaloupe and guava complemented the dish by contrasting it.
Cheers to winemaker Bell and chef Robey. You two make quite a pair!