Who doesn’t enjoy springtime in the Texas Hill Country with a wide assortment of fresh wildflowers sprinkled through the fields as you drive past lush green pastures and trees, not to mention the view of spring vines budding and donning a fresh cloak of leaves? Making it all the better is arriving at the front gates of the Kuhlman Cellars resplendent with bright red wildflowers waving in the cool evening breeze as the sun is slowly sinking into the horizon, and seeing those lovely grapevines beginning to grow. As you approach the winery, the flower garden welcomes you in full bloom with gorgeous blossoms of every imaginable color. Checking in for your table assignment, you look around the winery’s main tasting room and soak up the classical ambiance of tables expertly arranged family style in neat rows, with lovely fresh flowers and little white tea lights on each with menu cards and gleaming wine glasses all arranged shiny and standing ready to be filled with the beautiful wines to be featured that evening.
Attending Kuhlman’s multi-course dinners is a true delight for the senses and a treat that never disappoints. This night was no exception as we eagerly anticipated the evening ahead that Chef Chris Cook, the executive chef for Kuhlman Cellars and co-founder of the San Antonio Chef Cooperative, had prepared for us. As we made our way to the members lounge, we were served our opening wine of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp, bright and refreshing white with mineral and honeydew melon notes. It paired smartly with the Greekaroni composed salad course packed with flavor and interest that truly hit every taste bud featuring baby spinach, red onion slices, charred red peppers, grilled radicchio, pepperoni, feta cheese chunks, Greek olives, cucumbers and a smidge of orange with a lovely Olive Honey vinaigrette. This was served with Dolmathakia, a grape leaf wrapped around rice and herbs, and the tasting menu pairing small bite of mashed peas with sunflower seeds atop a Melba toast cracker. After visiting and enjoying the cool evening breezes on the patio and in the lounge, guests were invited into the main tasting room where they were seated and the rest of the festivities kicked off. Chris Cobb welcomed everyone and shared announcements for guests who were celebrating special occasions and life’s blessings before getting the second course out to the tables.
Jennifer Beckmann came to greet everyone as the 2016 Hensell was poured and described the wine, which differs from last year’s Hensell, as this one is a beautiful Mourvèdre rosé which was paired with the second course of grilled Korean pork belly, a crunchy scallion kimchi with strawberry ponzu. The bright fruit forward light pink rosé burst with fresh strawberry and coppery notes which popped with this pairing. The tasting bite featured wilted kale with strawberry served atop tangy kimchi with savory pork belly, which was a lovely salty protein to balance the fruit of the wine. The kimchi provided a nice contrast and the sesame and crunchy notes rounded out the overall taste sensations.
The third course featured the 2015 Gypsum paired with crawfish studded Scottish salmon. This dish included cauliflower couscous with almonds, apricots, braised Texas mushrooms, and a wine reduction. Gypsum shined in this pairing with its medium body and slight peppery and berry notes that melded with soft tannins. The salmon was grilled with a nice crispy skin, and a lovely bright pink middle that was incredibly moist. The couscous was surrounded by the mushroom wine reduction and the dish stood up nicely to the red wine. They both were well balanced and together were a brilliant pairing. The tasting bite was the Kuhlman Cellars herbed almonds.
The fourth course was the 2103 Alluvé, a red wine with lingering tannins and pepper notes that paired beautifully with a creamy spring tomato risotto. It was definitely bright spring comfort food accentuated with a topping of sliced avocado, pieces of crab, fresh mozzarella, and grape tomato with a basil Saba drizzle. This dish was served with the tasting bite of tomato cream cheese atop a water cracker topped with caramelized grilled onions and smoked sea salt. It was unique and soul soothing with bright acid and cream flavors that were balanced with the pepper and tannins of the red wine.
The grand finale of the evening was the 2014 Barranca which was paired with a pyramid of smoked Gouda and Texas pecan cheesecake served with charred cherry crème anglaise and olive oil. This cheesecake was a super rich and creamy savory cheesecake packed with crushed pecans making it a lip smacking and dense mouthful that got rave reviews from everyone in the room. The pairing was perfect, as the Barranca tempered and counterbalanced the richness of the cheesecake and highlighted the nuttiness of the pecans and the lovely caramelized tasting bite candied pieces. This was a guest favorite of the evening, though many could not eat their entire serving due to the richness and the ample portion size.
The Kuhlman team and Chef Cook’s team were introduced to everyone during the evening and all were met with applause at the end of the night for another marvelous wine dinner that delighted everyone there. We know we were very thankful for the wonderful service and attention to detail that went into every detail. These dinners are thankfully a regular part of the Kuhlman Cellars tradition that guests can look forward to as they are held throughout the year. Seasonal menus are prepared to highlight nature’s bounty and likewise tailored to showcase the complexity and unique qualities of each wine. Every dinner has been a true culinary adventure and the dishes and wine pairings have been well executed. We hope to meet you at future Kuhlman dinners, as we fully intend to keep returning!