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by Fred McMillin
for September 14, 2000

 

Meanwhile, Back at the Chateau


Prologue

Viscomte Chateaubriand, French author, gourmand and statesman, was born on this date, Sept. 14, in 1768.

Legend says that the steak dish which bears his name was created in a new Parisian phenomenon, the restaurant!

Let's see how it came about, and what wine could have been served with it, for the very first restaurant had an extensive wine cellar!


The Rest of the Story

Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Our tale involves two of the legendary gourmands of Paris, Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand and Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote these words about the La Grande Taverne de Londres, that first restaurant. Antoine de Beauvilliers founded it in 1782.

"The encouragement of this new profession, which spread from France all over Europe, is extremely advantageous to everyone...One can choose a meal solid, light or dainty [and] bathe it in the best French and foreign wines." (Translation by M.F.K. Fisher)


Titans at the Table

Chateaubriand and Savarin met for a restaurant meal, but did not have to select an entree. To celebrate the release of the former's latest novel, La Genie du Christianisme, the chef had fashioned a new dish and named it after the author. Chateaubriand steak was born. (see Betty Wason's Cooks, Gluttons, and Gourmets) What wine would have been poured? In reviewing a list of 30 restaurant wines, Brillat first mentions one from the Pinot Noir grape. So, a fine California Pinot is our...


Wine of the Day

1997 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir
Source of Grapes—The Fogarty vineyard is at 2,000 feet elevation in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 12 miles from the cool Pacific Ocean. Flavors are terrific if there's sufficient ripening warmth. There was in 1997.
Yeast—From Burgundy, of course! Fermentation started about two days after yeast addition, and produced a little over 14% alcohol during the following two weeks.
Oak—It was French, of course.
Rating—Half the panel gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and half an EXCELLENT. If you like black-cherry Pinot, you'll like this one.
Contact—Joe Gargiulo (707) 762-2700 or Ann Krolczyk (800) 247-4163, Fx (650) 851-5840.
Price—$28 range.


Postscript

The Chateaubriand recipe? Ms. Wason says a beef fillet was enclosed between two flank steaks. The flank steaks were seared and then discarded. Others say a pocket was cut in the fillet and it was stuffed with shallots. My wife's 90-year-old cookbook by Escoffier stresses the meat. He favors a fillet cut horizontally, two plus inches thick, and weighing as much as 20 ounces. I think I'll have a sip of the Fogarty and think it over.

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


This page created September 2000

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