When Kristen Leonardini fills the bowl of a wine glass with her family’s Whitehall Lane signature Reserve Cabernet, it’s not uncommon for her to flash back to the Sunday gatherings of her youth.
“We grew up appreciating wine and food,” she recalls. “Even when we were younger, we’d smell the wine. Everything kind of evolved from there.”
So it’s no surprise that Leonardini — who earned her degree from USD in 1987 — is eagerly looking ahead to July 25. That’s the day that she’ll reconnect with fellow alumni and close friends at the second annual USD Wine Classic.
Wine enthusiasts will gather to taste more than 50 wines from 25 wineries throughout California and Mexico. The event, open to the public, takes place from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice’s scenic Garden of the Sea. Proceeds from the $75 ticket benefit the USD Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund.
“It’s a fun event to be part of,” says Alumni Association Board Member Kevin Dooley ‘93. “You get to sample wine in a great venue, meet winemakers, eat great food and make an impact by giving back to students.”
Nearly all of the participating wineries have an alumni connection; in fact, many alumni will be present to serve their wines.
“We’re honored to be asked, and we’re happy to give back and support the school,” says Leonardini, who will pour five different Whitehall Lane wines. “Last year’s event was one of the nicest I’ve been part of. People definitely got their money’s worth.”
New this year is a pre-event meeting with Kimmel winemaker consultant Bruce Regalia, in which attendees can enjoy a wine barrel tasting. A limited number of $50 tickets are available.
For more information, go to www.usdwineclassic.com.
FEATURE PHOTO BY Ryan Brennan