Julia Child, the late, great American cookbook writer and chef, was profoundly moved by her first French meal when she and her husband arrived by ship, in Rouen, France, in November of 1948. She wrote:
“We began our lunch with a half-dozen oysters on the half shell. Rouen is famous for its duck dishes, but, after consulting the waiter, Paul [her husband] had decided to order Sole Meunière … perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.
“Then came the salade verte [green salad] with a slightly acidic vinaigrette. We followed our meal with a leisurely dessert of fromage … Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.”
As I watched this wonderful scene re-created in the new movie, Julie & Julia, which I saw this evening with a friend, I looked to try and see what wine they drank with their meal. I didn’t catch it, but I think I saw the shape of a white burgundy in the scene; certainly a choice I would consider with oysters and sole.
By the time this article is published, the movie will have left town, but I encourage you to rent it when it comes out on DVD.
It got me thinking about the food and wine movies I have enjoyed, and about how they have enriched my wine (and cooking) experiences and expanded my horizons. So I thought I’d suggest several other food- and wine-orientated films I have enjoyed – and you might, as well. They’ve had me coming out of the theatre wanting to fire up my stove and break out my corkscrew.
Bottle Shock, the true story of the (wine) world-changing 1976 taste-off (a.k.a. The Judgement of Paris) between French and the American wines. Steven Spurrier, a British wine seller, based in France, had the audacity to propose a blind taste test of French and American wines.
The film re-tells the story of his trip to California to gather wines, from heretofore unknown vineyards, to challenge the French. The film stars Alan Rickman (“Snape” in the Harry Potter films) as well as Dennis Farina and Eliz Dushku.
It also stars the California wines and vineyards that brought American wines to the world stage and (spoiler) blew away the best French reds and whites. They included cabernet sauvignons from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Ridge Vineyards (I think I saw one of their excellent zinfandels at the Liquor Corporation, recently), Heitz Wine Cellars and several others.
California chardonnays were represented by Chateau Montelena, Chalone Vineyard, Freemark Abbey Winery and others. All are still power hitters in the roster of great California vineyards. Though I haven’t seen any of them in Whitehorse, you might find some offered on the Alaska side of the border, though you’ll need to lay out a fair chunk of change to buy them.
Another terrific wine film from 2004 is Sideways, which tells the story of several friends spending a week tasting pinot noirs in California. It stars Paul Giamatti, as well as Virginia Madsen and Canada’s own Sandra Oh, in her breakout role.
The film’s characters taught me a little about the difficult-to-grow, thin-skinned and very special Pinot Noir grape, and to this day those wines have a special place in my wine preferences.
While Sideways and its story character rave about California pinot noirs, in my opinion, the best in the new world grow in the cooler climate of Oregon and are emerging strongly in B.C., as well.
Grey Monk ($18.60) offers one worth trying, NK’MIP ($16.20) has one that is listed here, but I have yet to see it on the shelves (maybe by October, with the new harvest?).
Whister is making a very interesting Pinot Noir Icewine ($24.10) that would be an exciting dessert wine. And then there are the great pinot noirs of Burgundy that are made around Beaune, as well as excellent pinot noirs such as Delta Vineyards ($26.35), coming from New Zealand.
Other fun food movies that I have enjoyed include Mostly Martha, a German film with subtitles, beautiful cooking scenes and one of my favourite soundtracks (though I’d skip the American re-make with Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Big Night, with Stanley Tucci, is another terrific film (with a great Louis Prima soundtrack) about two brothers who prepare a fabulous Italian dinner in New Jersey for a celebrity who never comes.
And I’d round it out with Chocolat, staring ethereal Juliette Binoche, as the chocolate maker blown in by the mistral wind; Johnny Depp, as a gypsy playing guitar in the style of Django Reinhardt and great supporting performances by Judi Dench (“M” in the newest Bond films) and Canada’s Carrie-Anne Moss.
These films have delighted me and capture the magic and enthusiasm that is found in the world of wine and food. So head over to the video rental store, cook up a good dinner and pop a bottle of wine to fully enjoy one of these great films this fall.