When a top Birmingham chef, a wine maker, and a group of journalists get together, it usually turns into a rowdy crowd sharing fun experiences and war stories.
Chris Dupont (left) with Mike Martini
It’s also a tough bunch to please. There’s not many things that at least one person in the room hasn’t experienced in their travels and the comparisons run high.
So, when invitation to Café Dupont is accepted, the anticipation is great. Especially when Mike Martini, third generation wine maker from Napa Valley, and chef Chris Dupont host it. The duo paired wines and traditional Southern foods for a five-course tasting dinner that left the intimate gathering of writers and media types curious for recipes and thirsting for more. Thank goodness for the lovely gift bag! Birmingham welcomed the master wine maker as part of a national tour promoting his wines. Though the conglomerate E.&J. Gallo purchased the Martini’s vineyards in 2002, Mike continues to guide production. “When Gallo purchased the winery there were a lot of mixed emotions,” Mike says. “But it has really allowed me to do what I’ve always wanted to do—hone my craft and make really good wines.”
His point was demonstrated over appetizers of cornmeal crusted oysters and okra with cayenne butter sauce paired with a lovely chardonnay. A cabernet perfectly complemented the delicate carpaccio. Followed with tempura shrimp accented by a roasted corn relish paired with a zinfandel, the light flavors segued perfectly into the heavier course of lamb partnered with cabernet. Dessert? Chocolate cheesecake.
Eloquent, casual, part sophisticate, part rancher, Mike spoke intermittently throughout the dinner with gusto and enthusiasm about his wine-making adventures—often catching himself with a dose of humility, suddenly quieting so as not to dominate the lively party.
And, as often happens with a group of journalists, it did get lively. Mike, his wife, and their public relations crew from Napa and New York, along with local distributors turned the talk to after hours in Birmingham. And perhaps that is where this story should end. Let a bottle of Louis M. Martini wine and a dinner a Café Dupot begin your own story.
You can find any of the Martini wines at the following locations: Western Supermarkets, Fine Wine shops, and the fine wine department at Publix.