2006 International
Food & Wine Festival

Tour de France Wine School
September 30, 2006
Bistro de Paris

by Gloria Konsler
AllEarsNet.com Team Member

Wine School

My husband and I have been to a number of the Epcot Food &Wine Festival wine schools over the past few years and have enjoyed them thoroughly. The 6-hour session begins with town car service from Epcot's front entrance to the classroom location and a continental breakfast. Participants then proceed to the classroom (or in this case, dining room) for the "school" portion of the program. A lunch is served, paired with wines and then a bit more classroom work after lunch.

In the past, the continental breakfast has consisted of assorted pastries, muffins, bagels, breads and sweet rolls, fresh fruit, cream cheese, orange juice, coffee and teas, all served buffet style as part of an elegant setting. What a disappointment when we arrived in France to be offered only a plain or chocolate-filled croissant, orange juice and tea or coffee served in a paper cup. However, the ambience of the little courtyard outside the Boulangerie Patisserie and the beautiful morning weather almost made up for the lack of breakfast selections.

After a short time allowed for breakfast, our group was escorted upstairs to the very elegant Bistro de Paris restaurant where our "desks" were lined with numerous glasses, a cracker assortment and an information packet. Our "teacher" for the day was Sheri Sauter Morano, the youngest person ever to receive the highly regarded Master of Wine designation in the United States. Sauter Morano works for Sopexa, a French entity that promotes French foods and wines in the US.

Sheri's presentation style was friendly and casual. There was not the least bit of stuffiness or snootiness about her presentation. She started with an overview of the main wine-producing regions of France and the types of grapes grown in the regions, highlighting how climate and soil affect which varietals can be grown and where they are best grown.

From there she proceeded to the way French vintners name their wines and the laws that control everything from which grapes may be grown in certain regions to which grapes can be blended and in what proportions to when grapes can be harvested and how much wine produced can be released for sale.

Our morning tastings consisted of two white wines, two rosés, a Beaujolias and then seven different reds from a very different Pinot Noir to classic Bordeaux. When questioned about the price points of the wines, Sheri said the wines were priced in the $15 to $20 range with one or two going up to the $25-$30 range.

Whites: Sauvion Vouvray, Mouton Cadet Boreaux Blanc
Rosés: Domaine Houchart Rosé, Red Bicyclette Rosé
Reds: Chateau de la Chaize Beaujolais, Les Jamelles Pinot Noir, Heritage des Caves des Papes, Ted the Mule, J Vidal Fleury Chateauneuf du Papes, Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Rouge, Chateau Berliquet 2002 and Lafite Reserve Speciale 2003.

Breakfast may have been a disappointment, but lunch was exquisite, the best we've ever had at a wine school. It was elegantly presented, perfectly seasoned and prepared and absolutely delightful.

L'amuse bouche: Heirloom tomato and pesto soup with Royan Comté cheese ravioli, vine tomato confit and goat cheese mousse with crispy bread.

1st course: Jumbo green asparagus and Louisiana crawfish in lemongrass emulsion, cheese and smoked duck breast shavings.

Main Course: Muscovy duck duo, legs confit Parmentier and pan seared foie gras; roasted duck breast with verjus du Perigord sauce and pickled grape.

Dessert: Fresh fruit with mint syrup, strawberry macaroons and green tea/rosemary sorbet.

Two wines, a white and a red were served with the first three courses: Trimbach Pinot Gris and Hautes Cotes de Nuit-Dames Hugettes 2003. With the dessert a 2003 Les Clos des Paulilles Banyules was served.

After lunch, Ms. Sauter Morano continued with a lesson on champagnes, highlighting the different methods of producing them, the differences in dryness and sweetness and the differences in color.

As with all Epcot wine schools, participants were presented with a diploma at the end of the class.

The most enjoyable part of this wine school (other than the actual tasting, of course!), was the "down-to-earthness" of Sheri Sauter Morano's presentation. She stressed how "friendly" these wines were with different foods, selected wines that could probably be found in most good wine stores and pinpointed a price range that was comfortable for most everyone's pocketbook.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the tote bag all participants received. This is the first time we've come away from a wine school with more than a brochure and maybe a map or two. The tote is constructed of a lightweight, non-woven fabric and imprinted with a "Wines of France" logo where the "A" in "France" is a stylized Eiffel Tower. In the tote was a Michelin wine guide, "The Wine Regions of France," a glossy pamphlet entitled "French Wines: A Tour de France (in small sips)" which covers basically the same information Sheri gave us in the class, a black "golf" shirt with the "Wines of France" logo embroidered on it, a great waiter's corkscrew with built-in foil cutter, a map of the French wine regions and a magnetic wine selector wheel.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable way to spend the day and well worth the price.