I first met Steven in the mid 1960’s when we were both saplings in the British wine trade. He and his wife, Bella are two of our dearest buddies and we have shared many wonderful meals together and even more fine bottles!
Steven is now one of the most famous personalities in the international world of wine. It really all began in the 1970’s when he moved to Paris and, much to the horror of the stuffy Parisians, opened a wine school to teach the French about wine. Quel horreur! Then came the famous “tasting of Paris” which was such an earth shattering event that it was later the basis for the film Bottle Shock; a movie that veered significantly from the true events and which did a great injustice in how it depicted Steven. He is the complete antithesis of the snobby, self- important character in the movie.
To celebrate the birthday (he looks closer to 50 than 70), Steven and Bella invited 100 friends and family to a lunch at a hotel in the seaside town of Burton Bradstock in Dorset (just love those British village names!). It was a journey down memory lane with so many old friends from the British wine trade including Michael Broadbent and Hugh Johnson and other wine trade celebs from the UK. Some of the people we had not seen for over 40 years! One old chum who I didn’t recognize came up to us and said;
“Melvyn and Janie, I used to follow you around the cafes of Bordeaux in 1965 when you sang and played in the cafes so you could go eat in good restaurants!” Good memories!
It was one of the most wonderful parties Janie and I have attended with wine makers from all over the world also attending (including Warren Winiarski from Stags Leap). Here are the wines Steven chose for us all;
Champagne Bollinger NV
Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2009, A and F Bourdin
M3 Chardonnay 2010 Shaw and Smith, Australia
Arcadia Chardonnay 2008, Warren Winiarski, Napa
Centauri Red Blend 2008 from Bodegas O Fournier, Maule, Chile
Chateau Leoville Barton 2002, St Julien
Chatea Beaucastel 2000, CNP.We sat down at 1.30 and got up and 6 and so that really says it all!
Next day we all gathered for a bucolic picnic lunch at Steven and Bella’s vineyard in Dorset; yes, you read that right! Three years ago they planted Chardonnay, Pinor Noir and Pinot Meunier on their farm and will be making a British Sparkling wine to be called Bride Valley. It will be fabulous I know.
You can read Steven’s wine articles in the terrific British wine publication, Decanter.
JET SETTING WINE DINNER!
Two days before flying to the UK for Steven’s birthday bash I had to fly to North Carolina for a Tortoise Creek wine dinner at the Boat House in the gorgeous seas side village of Beaufort. The Boat House is an incredible complex created by a fun loving and wonderful couple Wendi and Bucky Oliver. It comprises, a wine shop, restaurant, boat storage and soon a spa.
I had to fly into Raleigh Durham early that morning and then drive 3 hours to meet my wonderful sales rep there, Jillana Lamm from Dionysus Wines (our distributor in NC) but I also had to get back to Raleigh the next morning for a 7 am flight to be able to get to catch the plane to London! So I called Jilliana and expressed my concern as to how on earth I was going to be able to do it all.
“I am old and decrepit”, I reminded her!
An hour later, our hostess; Wendi Oliver calls me back and tells me that her husband, Bucky will fly me back to Raleigh after the dinner!
“Are you serious?” I ask.
“Of course. We have a little Citation jet and can get you back there in a half hour.”
This is a first for Monsieur Melvino! Being jetted back to his hotel after a wine dinner!!
It was going to set a precedent for future wine dinners!
The dinner, cooked by chef Michael Santos was fabulous and all matched by the incredible wines of TORTOISE CREEK!
After dinner Bucky, whips me off in his jeep to a little airfield which it appears to be closed for the night. We pull up outside what appears to be a huge storage place and Bucky presses some remotes and “voila”, an immense door opens up exposing a cavernous garage with a citation jet inside! Bucky gets onto a mini tractor attached to the jet. He pushes the beautiful winged creature out into the open and returns the tractor to the “storage space”! We both climb in and he puts me in the co- pilot seat and off we go out into the run way and on into the night. Man oh man, what a ride!
I think I will get me one of them Citations!
AWONDERFUL RESTAURANT FIND.
3340 Steiner Street
San Francisco, CA 94123-2707(415) 202-0100
Bistro Aix in San Francisco is one of our most favorite new restaurants.
The food is California/Provencal and mostly organic, local ingredients, with an emphasis on olive oil over butter and lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and fish. They bake of their own breads, daily. The wine list is terrific with many super values