By Gregory D. McCluney
Living in a top-ten urban area like Atlanta, it’s easy to forget the bounty of our own state – from free- range chicken to local produce, cheese and, of course, Georgia wine. Cooking with locally produced and farmed ingredients is all the rage these days, as is the lost art of butchering and utilizing all parts of the animal.
Chefs from New York to LA, and many of our best in Atlanta, have gradually moved away from the infamous industrial food service trucks and their prepared and pre-packaged provisions to locally grown and raised meats, produce, dairy products and fish. Movements have been started with advertising campaigns to remind consumers some of the best seafood and shellfish is caught just a few hours from Atlanta. Our chefs are asking an obvious question: Do we really need to fly our shrimp half way around the world from Vietnam?
At the state level, our leaders in government are promoting the concept of eating local and supporting area farmers, ranchers and fishermen – good for your health and good for the local economy and environment, too. Shipping mass-produced food across the country is expensive and wasteful.
Georgia is on track with a new publication, Georgia Eats, the official state culinary guide, which features 10 flavor tours around the state, 100 plates locals love (local restaurants of note), agri-tourism trails for visitors and residents, and local chefs and recipes from around the state.
If you want to get started learning about and tasting products grown and raised in Georgia, attend the Georgia Grown Farm to Table Wine Dinner, a special presentation of Vino Venue and Atlanta Wine School on June 24 at 7:00 p.m. This will be the first of a series in which 95 percent of the ingredients (and all the wines) are Georgia grown. VV chef Melissa and sommelier Jane Garvey will present a three-course dinner paired with Georgia wines and answer questions from the guests on sourcing and cooking local. Register at vinovenue.com or call 770-668-0435.
The wine tasting heard around the world!
By Gregory D. McCluney
The California wine industry, and the entire U.S., owes Stephen Spurrier a great deal of gratitude. Just as America celebrated its bi-centennial, the British wine merchant, whose shop just happened to be in Paris, Caves de la Madeleine, organized a blind tasting of several classic French wines and some mostly unknown (in France) California labels including Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap. The French wines from Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Leflaive were tasted along with Heitz, David Bruce, Ridge and Chalone. California cabs from Stag’s Leap, Clos du Val, Freemark Abbey plus Mayacamas were tasted with classic Bordeaux icons Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion and Leoville-Las-Cases.
When the California wines clearly emerged as the winners of the blind tasting, the wine world changed for California wines, Napa and beyond. It should be noted that the judges were French, with just two exceptions, including Spurrier. This victory of forty years ago set the stage for credibility in winemaking and vineyard quality that California needed. Now some of the world’s best wines had been made in some non-French wineries and vineyards. New world meets old world and, in this tasting, the new world won.
First place went to Napa’s Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, 1973, and Stag’s Leap Cellars for its Cabernet Sauvignon, 1973. In May, celebrations and special wine dinners will be held throughout Napa Valley to honor the forty year anniversary of this historic judgment.
Locally, on Friday May 20, Vino Venue will recognize the Judgment of Paris with a special educational tasting. From 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., current vintages of many of the same wines tasted in the 1976 event will be sampled in a classroom setting, with comments and a presentation by Michael Bryan, Atlanta Wine School founder. The wines will include two American reds and two whites tasted alongside two French reds and whites, respectively, all accompanied by light bites. Visit the website for reservations and more information.
Some wine writers and critics feel that California wines would not fare as well today in a similar tasting, depending on who does the judging. Certainly the big, bold, fruity young California cabs of today are very different wines than those made in 1976. But so are many Bordeaux wines, which have changed their styles (and age-ability) to compete in a world market. Thirty years ago, a similar tasting was organized, and again, California proved itself. Who would win a similar competition in 2016? As usual, it would depend on what the judges are looking for on a given day, in a given year, but the odds are still with these California classics.
To learn more, with some liberties taken for entertainment in filmmaking, watch the 2008 movie Bottle Shock. For instance, tasting wines in competition outside in the summer sun is not recommended!