Kenny Bumbaco, Fluent in the Language of Wine
Kenny Bumbaco studied aboard in Seville for a summer at William & Mary to immerse himself in the Spanish culture.
Languages fascinate him, dating back to his introduction to Latin as a sixth-grader. He’s fluent in Spanish, can speak French, some Italian and a hint of Greek.
But at 19, he discovered the language of wine, which opened up an entirely unexpected career path.
“Wine was the most popular beverage in Spain; they’re more of a wine country than a spirits country,” Kenny says. “I found it fascinating how every single wine tasted so different versus my experiences with beer.”
Part of the trip included a sherry tasting.
“At 19, it was my first wine tasting experience,” he says.
As a 21-year-old, Kenny sampled varietally labeled wine offerings in lieu of anything that came in a jug or a box. Over the next couple of years, he visited roughly 50 wineries, tasting and educating himself about the winemaking process.
Yet he considered wine a hobby. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics, the Virginia Beach native continued at the College of William and Mary for his Master of Education.
His desire to teach lasted precisely a quarter at a middle school.
After realizing too many students didn’t share his enthusiasm for learning Spanish, Kenny returned to his part-time job from college, assistant manager of The Peanut Shop. He eventually was promoted to manager of the Genuine Smithfield Ham Shoppe in Merchants Square. He created a wine section there, giving him the confidence to apply for a posting from The Williamsburg Winery in the Virginia Gazette.
In 2010, Kenny became The Williamsburg Winery’s Retail and Tasting Room Sales Manager. He’s held various titles along the way to his current one, Vice President, Direct Wine Sales.
“My teaching spirit comes through when I’m talking to folks about wine. I like doing things like the virtual tasting online and wine seminars in person.”
One of his most invaluable experiences came early. In his first year of employment, The Williamsburg Winery founder Patrick Duffeler arranged for him to travel to Napa and Sonoma for training. He increased his knowledge by long hours studying wine literature and joined the Society of Wine Educators. In March 2011, Kenny was named a Certified Specialist of Wine, a highly regarded certification recognized by the international wine industry.
The Williamsburg Winery also supported his effort to achieve his MBA from William and Mary in 2019.
“My experience in the program really helped me grow from a manager to a leader with the winery,” he says. “It helped me learn to think strategically about the goals and objectives of my divisions.”
Later that year, Kenny joined the Board of the Virginia Wineries Association, the primary trade organization for wine in the state. He serves on the association’s Governor’s Cup Committee.
Among the selections at The Williamsburg Winery, Kenny favors the Petit Verdot Reserve. The finish of multiple layers — blackberry, dark cherry, and cranberry along with cocoa and vanilla, and the pleasant earth tones of suede, olives, and a hint of eucalyptus — make it The Williamsburg Winery’s most complex wine, he says.
“It’s got a nice full body to it, and it really goes with a variety of different foods,” he says. “That really is our most standout red out of everything we produce.”
Kenny is something of a chef, too, specializing in baked goods and candies — interests that encourage him to hike in and around Williamsburg during his free time.
“Visiting wineries, eating good food and hiking — that’s what I love to do,” he says. “It’s a pretty good life.”