wine guy wednesday
CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd on a must-attend dinner at March toasting French wines
Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.
In this week's column, he tells us about a special wine dinner at one of his favorite Houston restaurants. Take it away, Chris.
Here we go! Have I got a wine dinner for you!
This Tuesday, October 3, the team at March will host renowned wine writer Jon Bonné for a one-night dinner celebrating the release of his amazing new book The New French Wine. If you don’t have this book, drive illegally fast to the nearest place to buy a book and get your hands on this one. If you work in a restaurant, a wine bar, or just frequent either of those places, you should have this book on the shelf.
Over the past few years, we are seeing a change and an influx of new wines coming from France. Wines are becoming more available and even more approachable. Trust me, I love the houses and vineyards in Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, and Loire, but now we are seeing this deep rooted love of different areas and some new winemakers that are embracing that as well. History wasn’t wrong. It’s just as Jon Bonné writes, “C’est Compliqué,” or “It’s’ complicated.”
I’m going to share a paragraph from his book that says a lot to me. Jon writes:
The state of wine in France matters because France is (and, with luck, forever will be) the soul of the global wine industry. Its grape varieties remain benchmarks around the world. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and so on are the base materials for so many other wine regions, whether it be California or the Adelaide Hills, or even Tuscany. And reference examples from France remain just that: precedents by which other places measure their progress.
I personally agree with all of this— history tells us this. When I spoke to Jon today, he told me, “I would argue that nothing this big has happened to the French wine business since Phylloxera over 150 years ago.”
We’re seeing the newest winemakers and lesser known regions everywhere now on wine lists, in shops, and even at the grocery stores. We’re seeing sections for Beaujolais, Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence and even the Jura.
This book took Jon over either years to write, and it’s a masterpiece. It breaks down the whys, the whos, and the wheres from region to region. France has been hard to discover forever, but this book has it all laid out for you. You want to know more about the new and the old producers of Champagne, yep! I feel like the dog that had been chasing the car forever, and I finally caught it. Thank you for that, I was getting tired.
Now, on to the dinner. It’s no secret that the folks at Goodnight Hospitality are good friends of mine. I love what they do at Montrose Cheese and Wine, Rosie Cannonball, March, and I can’t wait for Marigold Club to open. They just get me — delicious food and beverage in a very thoughtful way.
Felipe Riccio, who is the chef/partner at Goodnight, is a young, very smart chef. And he truly understands wine. Believe it or not, there are not many chefs out there that focus on wine as much as food — Erin Smith at Feges BBQ, Terrence Gallivan at Elro, Felipe. I’m sure there are a few more but not many. It takes work and passion to learn wine but once you fall into it, it’s on!
Felipe and his team at MARCH are in the middle of the Sicily menu right now but are planning this one-night, amazing dinner. Master sommelier June Rodil, Mark Sayre, Gillie Dougherty, and Felipe sat down and picked the wines for this dinner by region and then dove into the deep end of the pool to work the menu. You want to talk about special? Yeah! You need to get this ticket, I already did because it is going to be one for the memory books. I would suggest if you want a killer experience then head on over to the MARCH website and book your seat. Everyone involved is just over the moon with excitement.
June told me, “Rather than being in constant search for the same old icons, Jon is discovering new French wine icons and unlocking their history and culture while sharing with us what we should be collecting for the future.”
I know that collecting is just as important as being able to enjoy now. In this book you will find both, and that’s pretty amazing. I hope you join Jon, Felipe, June, me and the rest of the team on Tuesday. Let’s raise a glass of Champagne and have an amazing conversation and dinner! See you there.
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Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $11 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund. Catch his new TV show, Eat Like a Local, every Saturday at 10 am on KPRC Channel 2.