Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What the Big J.C. Told Me About Wine

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Of course I am talking Julia Child here. With the release of Julie & Julia, the world of gastronomes delights in a renaissance of French-flaired soirees and celebrations in honor of the grande dame of TV chefs. Almost everyone in the culinary world has a story to tell about meeting, working, being inspired by, or just crossing paths with the big J.C. Friends of mine at the Food Network remember her visit to the studio and how they were filled with butterflies just being in the same room. Another colleague from CNN shared that her name is on the CNN tape on display in Julia’s kitchen at the Smithsonian (she interviewed her once for a show.) My memory, of course, revolves around wine.

In 2004, I was lucky enough to be assigned an interview with the lady legend and, with the help of Julia’s assistant Stephanie, garnered some of the most memorable quotes of my career. When I asked Julia what she thought of wine snobs, she simply said she did not approve of them. We chatted about cooking with wine and enjoying wine with friends. The J.C. wisdom I most often hear myself sharing is her thoughts on wine lists in restaurants. In this current economy, and every other time, this statement holds true. She said, “A restaurant is only as good as its least expensive bottle of wine.” If ever I find myself worrying over what to order I recall that A-HA! moment.

Even in her stardom she was down to earth; she stayed true to herself and was unwavering in her commitment to what she called “cookbookery” and culinary education. In her honor and in celebration of her unending gifts to the culinary world and the world as a whole I’ve picked a champers (her jolly moniker for Champagne) she often enjoyed with the likes of James Beard and her beloved husband Paul, to toast with this week. It’s a splurge, but even Julia, as down to earth and cost-conscious as she was, knew a girl needed to indulge once in a while, especially if it meant a treat to the tastebuds.

Dom Perignon, 2000, Champagne, France, $160- That’s right, the real deal in bubbles. This is a splurge but think of it as a lesson in wine. Let these rich, glorious bubbles fill your mouth and you’ll see what all the hype,--since the 17th century, mind you--continues to be about.

On the svelter side- Willm, Cremant d’ Alsace, Rose $15- Still from Julia’s beloved France, but just a smidge north of the Champagne region, these bubbles dazzle in rosy pink and are refreshing on a hot summer day. For the complete interview, including Julia’s top picks for dinner mates and her most valuable tool in the kitchen, log on to

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