In exchange for doing some sewing for Craig and Seth, the BFF and I were given a too-good-to-pass-up deal on last week's wine class at the Wine Authorities. There is a wonderful exhibit now at the Nasher Museum at Duke University called Picasso and the Allure of Language. I have already seen it once and have plans to return with some of my students next week for a guided tour. Could there be a better way to spend a Thursday evening in Durham, NC than learning about French wines, Paris in the early part of the 20th century and Picasso? Oh, and how could I forget... sampling bistro fare. "Just another Thursday night in Durham." --Al Eckhardt. (Al and his wife Carolyn were seated at our table. They helped make the evening so much fun. Use that Enomatic card, Carolyn. Call us if you need help!)
When we entered the shop at 7:20 pm sharp, we were met at the door by Randy, Mic, Seth and Craig, properly attired as handsome French bistro waiters in black pants, starched white shirts and black aprons. We were given a lovely glass of kir, my personal favorite, as our apératif.
I distinctly remember my first kir... it was during my 1987 trip to Provence with students and Leigh, my friend, colleague and co-chaperone. We were in Aigues Mortes, a walled city, in a little café. Such memories, les beaux souvenirs... Kir was made popular in the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region of France by the enterprising mayor of Dijon, Félix Kir. He served the drink, made from two of his region's products, crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and Bourgogne Aligoté, white wine. And, bien sûr, he named it for himself! Trust me, I would do the same. At Wine Authorities, we were served the real deal, just as M. Kir served his guests. There are variations... Kir Royale is made with champagne. Also yummy, I might add, if one is in the mood for bubbles.
After finding our seats at the tables set in bleu, blanc et rouge just like the French flag, Craig and Seth introduced themselves and gave an overview of the evening. We began our celebration with a glass of champagne and toasts all around. As the evening progressed, we sampled wines, saw pictures of Paris, and were treated to a very entertaining talk about the Picasso exhibit by Mary Cay Corr. The evening's nibbles, prepared by Chef Matt Kelly of Vin Rouge restaurant here in Durham, were served up with the proper wines and all was explained to us-- the reason for the choices, the terroirs of the various wines, Picasso's poor, practically homeless days, his friendship with Gertrude Stein, the writer and art collector. She entertained artists and writers and, I hope, fed and watered them. I've been to Montmartre, one of Picasso's hangouts, many times, but I am not well-acquainted with the Montparnasse neightborhood-- not yet! I recently read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, with his descriptions of Paris. Gertrude Stein figures prominently in this book, along with the Montparnasse quartier.
We sampled duck terrine (in the middle with the dark spots), pork rillettes, affectionately known as confiture de cochon or pig jam (quenelled by the one and only Seth Gross), two mustards, cornichons and French baguettes. "This is the best pig jam I've ever had." -- Martha King
The evening was capped off by first a Vermouth Blanc, chilled, with a little piece of orange floating in it. A very nice digéstif, although I see this as more of an apératif. We then tried the Dolin Vermouth Rouge. It certainly warmed its way down my throat and into my tummy. I cannot remember ever drinking vermouth, but that doesn't mean I've never tasted it. It just wasn't memorable, I guess. Until now.
It was certainly a memorable evening. I will not soon forget the rillettes and Le Chevrot. They top my list. My favorite work in the Picasso exhibit, is the large black and white photo of Picasso himself, surrounded by several of the paintings that are part of the exhibit. I could not even begin to choose a favorite wine. I enjoyed them all tremendously.
Here are the wines we sampled--
Rapet- Bourgogne Aligoté, Burgundy, France 2006
Chermette, Crème de Cassis, Burgundy, France NV
R. Dumont & Fils, Brut Tradition, Champagne, France NV
Merlin-Cherrier, Sancerre, Loire Valley, France 2007
Domaine Croix de Chèvre, Régnié, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France 2006 (This one would be good at Thanksgiving, I think...)
Domaine Gouron, Chinon, Loire, France 2007
Eric de Suremain, Rully 1er Cru,"Preaux," Burgundy, France 2005
Dolin, Vermouth Blanc, Savoie, France NV
Dolin, Vermouth Rouge, Savoie, France NV
Bon appétit er merci, Wine Authorities, Chef Matt Kelly and the Nasher Museum!