Barbara Ensrud is a wine journalist, author and wine educator. Her syndicated weekly wine colunns for the New York Daily News appeared in major metropolitan newspapers across the country, from the Miami Herald to the San Jose Mercury News, and during her years in New York, she was a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts page of the Wall St. Journal. Her wine articles have appeared in GQ, Vogue, Parade, Garden & Gun, Smart Money, Harper's Bazaar, The Wine Spectator, Decanter, Food & Wine, Gastronomica, House & Garden, House Beautiful, Glamour, and numerous other publications. She is Regional Correspondent for Appellation America ( www.appellationamerica.com ) covering North Carolina wines and mid-Atlantic growing regions. She has been featured on TV (ABC, NBC) and radio (WUNC, WOR-NY). She is the author of American Vineyards and Wine with Food (see below).
She has taught wine appreciation courses at Duke University since 2000 and previously at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and in New York at L'Academie du Vin, and The New School at CCNY; she was a regular guest lecturer Windows on the World. She has conducted panel tastings at the Aspen Wine & Food event, and judged in numerous wine competitions in the U.S. and Europe. She is a member of two elective professional organizations: The New York Wine Press and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Barbara Ensrud is a frequent speaker on the subject of wine, including its role in culture, history, myth and symbol. She conducts wine tastings and wine seminars for corporations, conferences and private gatherings. She also consults for restaurants in creating or upgrading wine lists, and works with individuals interested in collecting wine or starting a wine cellar. For more information, email inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is B.E. drinking this week?
Cab Franc and Pinot Noir -- Easting into (light) reds as fall approaches(see B.E.'s Wine Buy of the Week_
Judgment of Charleston
May 24 2016 being the 40th Anniversary of the Paris Tasting of 1976, Mira Winery of Napa Valley decided to mark the occasion with a re-match of sorts: 8 red wines of current release, 4 Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa, 4 classed growth Bordeaux.
The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect, “like a vinous shot heard round the world.” – Barbara Ensrud, Wall Street Journal
May of 1976 in Paris was a game-changer in the world of wine. On May 24, a panel of French wine experts participated in a blind tasting that pitted top French wines against their counterparts from California: 6 red Bordeaux versus 6 California Cabernet Sauvignons, 6 white Burgundies versus 6 California Chardonnays. In both categories, the tasters, quite confident the wines were French, picked California wines as Number 1.
The Cabernet: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 of Napa Valley bested such illustrious Bordeaux as Château Mouton-Rothschild (which came in 2nd) and Château Haut-Brion (3rd), both First Growths.
The Chardonnay: Chateau Montelena 1973, Napa Valley over such white Burgundies as Batard-Montrachet and a Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet.
See complete list of all wines in the '76 tasting here.
The historic tasting was organized by Steven Spurrier, a Brit who owned a wine shop in Paris and had founded a wine school there. A year or so earlier Spurrier had traveled through northern California and was amazed at some of the wines he tasted. Curious to see how they would stack up against French wines from the same grapes, he had no trouble getting top French tasters to participate in a blind taste-off. Time magazine's Paris reporter George Taber reported the results that shocked the wine world. His book, Judgment of Paris, recounts the full story and I highly recommend it to winelovers.
In Charleston on May 24, 2016, eleven judges, several at one or another of the Master Sommelier levels, plus myself, a couple of retailers and wine educators, met at Mira's Napa Valley Tasting Room and Education Center in Charleston, SC, to taste the line-up--blind, of course. We had no clue as to what the wines were, and the order was random. The wines were decanted an hour in advance.
This time around the line-up proved equally stellar--and this time France re-asserted
herself. Here are the results:
1. Château Pétrus 2012 $1600-2500/bottle! (mostly found only at auction)
2. Château Haut-Brion 2010 $645-800/bottle
3. Mira Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Schweizer Vyd $165/bottle
4. Screaming Eagle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $1500-2100/bottle (auction only)
5. Schrader Cellars 2010 Beckstoffer-To Kalon Vyd $385/bottle (sold out)
6. Château Latour 2011 $525-650/bottle
7. Shafer Hillside Select 2011 $200-280/bottle
8. Château Angelus 2010 $320-425/bottle
All of the wines were outstanding. That we knew before the results were revealed. The Château
Angelus 2010 (Parker's WA = 99 pts) was a bit controversial -- some felt it was an off-bottle or untypical, one liked it a lot. I ranked it No. 6 and noted the floral components in the nose. We all agreed that on another day the order of the wines might come out quite differently. Put any one of them in front of us at dinner and we'd likely be delighted. It would be interesting to see how they fare with a decade's aging. All showed depth, complexity and balance (except possibly Angelus).
My first three picks were Schrader, Mira and Haut-Brion, in that order--and this is why tasting blind is so important, because you focus solely on the wine, how it speaks to you and your palate, without seeing the label. I surprised myself. Normally I gravitate toward Bordeaux for its elegance and complexity (though Bordeaux differs considerably in style from left bank/right bank, commune to commune). But I also love Cabernet, especially from the Stag's Leap District, home to both the Mira Schweizer and Shafer Hillside Select. The Schrader, from Oakville is, for me, a knockout!
Mira owner Jim 'Bear' Dyke debated about including his own wine in the tasting, but he and Gustavo Gonzalez, co-founder and winemaker, decided to throw in the Mira Cab from Schweizer Vineyard--and were mighty glad they did when the judges picked it as the top California wine!
For a fuller account and list of judges, go to:
"...an invaluable tool for chefs and for entertaining."
*Wine with Food, a guide to matching wine and food, $12 **
Foreword by M.F.K. Fisher--order below
Wondering what to serve with what? B.E.'s book (256 pages) is a lively exploration of the in's and out's of pairing wine and food and has hundreds of suggested match-ups-- plus suggested menus for entertaining, tips on wine buying, serving and storing, starting a cellar.
* To order Wine With Food, $12 (includes s&h), email me at email@example.com
**Note: wholesale inquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Vinyards (Stewart Tabori & Chang)
Best Wine Buys for $12 and Under, Villard Books
The Pocket Guide to Cheese ( Putnam Perigee)The Pocket Guide to Wine (Thir Edition, Putnam Perigee)
Dinner With Julia--A ReminiscenceComments? Questions? email b.e. at: email@example.com
Were she alive today, Julia Child would have turned 100 on August 15. When I saw the delightful movie "Julie and Julia" a few years back, it triggered some wonderful memories for me. Julia Child was a friend. Our paths had crossed numerous times at wine and food events. When she and Robert Mondavi founded the American Institute of Wine and Food, I was a big supporter of the idea and a charter member, and served on the board of the New York Chapter. In April of 1991 I was still living in New York, and heading to Boston to be on a wine panel at a tasting event. I called Julia to see if she would be in Cambridge at that time and proposed lunch. In her inimitably ebullient way, she said "Come for dinner!" And then, "Would you like to bring someone?" And then, "Can you spend the night?" Could I? Would I?
As it happened, my good friend George, a financial consultant with Fidelity, was then based in Boston. I had already called him about having dinner in Boston and we made a date for Friday night. I called him back after Julia's invitation. He was thrilled at the prospect, if a little daunted. I told George we were bringing the wine. Julia had told me we were having duck--a happy prospect, since it meant we could bring my favorite wine, red Burgundy.
George gave me the name of the wine shop he used, and I called to see which Burgundies and vintages they had in stock. The great vintage of 1985 had long been sold out, alas, but they had an excellent premier cru, Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1988. As George recalls, he walked out with two of the $50 bottles (currently nearer $700, George, could it be found!). About 7:30 we pulled up in front of the large and comfortable two-story house on Irving Street and walked around to a back entrance, as Julia had instructed. She greeted us warmly and ushered us right into her warm, wonderful kitchen. She introduced a friend and neighbor, the tall and ruggedly attractive John DeJennet, and we stood around the kitchen table nibbling on Scottish smoked salmon and golden caviar with cocktails. John drank scotch; Julia sipped what John called "an upside-down Martini"--dry vermouth on the rocks with a little gin floating on top, so I had one, too.* Another couple soon arrived with their oversized but well-behaved dog, Abigail Adams, a golden russet retriever mix who lay politely at the door to the kitchen--and stayed put all evening.
Julia wore a brilliantly colored blouse of striped silk over purple knit pants and black suede Birkenstock-like sandals. A chef's apron was tied around her waist, with a towel hanging from it. It was all delightfully informal--typical of Julia and her genuine, down-to-earth, enthusiastic manner that put everyone so at ease as we visited and got acquainted. The Muscovy ducks were in the oven. Fresh asparagus was peeled and ready to steam. The other vegetable was to be roast large onions. “I was down in the market this morning and they had these beautiful onions so I just got some," George recalls Julia saying. "All you do is peel them, cut them in half, put olive oil on them, and put them face down on a cookie sheet. Bake them at 350 for about 30 minutes, turn them over and put sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and put them back in for another 10 or 15 minutes."
When dinner was close to ready, we all helped clear the table and reset it--green straw placemats on the mustard yellow striped cloth, with thick yellow napkins and colorful Provençal plates. Julia brought out the ducks on a large platter surrounded by the onions. The asparagus was topped with her mouth-melting hollandaise. It was all delectable, of course--the ducks tender and moist as only roast/braising can make them.
Julia had brought up from the wine cellar a 1964 Grands Echezeaux, decanted at the table and rather amazing at 26 years! That's old for a Burgundy, but it still had fruit, with smoky, tarry aromas, somewhat briary in flavor but quite enjoyable, and a very special treat.
The 1988 Vosne-Romanée was fabulous (thank goodness!)--heady, teeming with aromas of black raspberries that fairly leaped from the glass, rich in texture with vibrant, lush black-fruit flavors. Can any wine be more more seductive than a well-made Côtes de Nuits? I asked. Julia concurred, remarking that "Burgundy was always Paul's favorite."
Conversation was lively and non-stop. Like George, I can't quite remember the various topics. I know I told her about my recent visit with Mary Frances (M.F.K. Fisher) in Glen Ellen. Julia, almost 80 at the time, drank and ate with gusto the food she herself had cooked--this after a cooking event in Swampscott, MA. earlier that day. She had made Ladyfinger Dacquoise for dessert, "lots of cream but no butter," she explained. After dinner, she prepared the coffee in her Braun coffeemaker and drank it (real). As George recounts, we all helped with clearing, loading the dishwasher, washing and drying pots and pans, and then adjourned to the library for cognac and more conversation.
I'm a little blurry on the sleepover. I remember heading upstairs after all the farewells, followed by a cat that Julia said might end up on the bed with me. But I can't say, really, since I slept extremely well and soundly, like the proverbial log. Next morning I awoke to the bracing aroma of strong coffee and came downstairs to be met with Julia's hearty greeting and "what would you like for breakfast--how about an omelet?" Oh wow, who could resist? I wasn't quite hungry again. But I managed to eat the whole puffy, buttery thing.
I look back and marvel at the sheer delight of that visit, the wonderful dinner, of course, but also of Julia's inimitable spontaneity, her warm generosity, her unflagging energy. Her presence was always like being caught in a beam of sunlight. She radiated, and it was wonderful to luxuriate in it for a while. I'll always be grateful.
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