France vs USA Blind Tasting Dinner: The Judgement of St. James’s

From the moment we stepped into the venerable Berry Bros & Rudd in London on Friday 23rd June 2023, the stage was set for a culinary tour de force – an homage to the famous Judgment of Paris, appropriately dubbed The Judgement of St. James’s. It was a riveting contest between France and USA, masterfully hosted by Michael Dabbs, orchestrated through four distinctive courses and nine incredible wines.

The experience commenced with an apéritif – the Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siècle No. 25, Brut ($197 – rating: 4.6 / 5.0). This vivacious champagne was the perfect companion to the evening’s canapés. Its fresh, yet complex, effervescence laid the groundwork for the sensory adventure to come.

The first course was an exquisite smoked salmon tartare, accompanied by a mousse of cod’s roe, wild asparagus and keta. The dish was paired with a 2017 Racines, Bentrock Chardonnay ($140 – rating: 4.6 / 5.0)  from California and a 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet from Burgundy’s Marquis de Laguiche ($187 – rating: 4.8 / 5.0). Each wine showcased its regional characteristics splendidly. The Californian Chardonnay’s minerality and citrus tones harmonized with the salmon tartare’s smoky notes, while the French white Burgundy won my heart with its sophisticated, rich bouquet and balanced acidity.

Our palates were then teased with a crispy mushroom cigar, served alongside a cappuccino of cep and dusted with truffle. The earthy, savory complexity of the dish was met by two superb Pinot Noirs – a 2016 Charmes-Chambertin, Grand Cru from Lucien Le Moine, Burgundy ($393 – rating: 4.7 / 5.0) and a 2017 Occidental, Cuvée Catherine, Running Fence Vineyard Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma Coast ($234 – rating: 4.6 / 5.0). While both Pinots were expressive and sophisticated, the Charmes-Chambertin edged forward with its intoxicating bouquet and profound depth of flavors.

The third course was a straightforward but supremely satisfying grilled ribeye, accompanied by Hasselback potatoes and summer beans. The robust flavors of the steak were countered by two stellar wines – a 2007 Dominus from Napa Valley ($427 – rating: 4.7 / 5.0) and a 2006 Château Lafite Rothschild from Pauillac, Bordeaux ($966 – rating: 4.9 / 5.0). Each brought their signature style to the table. The Dominus was bold, full-bodied, with layered tannins while the Lafite Rothschild was sublime, demonstrating the refinement and structure that Bordeaux is renowned for. It’s tough to pick a favorite, but the Lafite Rothschild won my admiration with its elegance and complexity.

For dessert, a refreshing lemon parfait adorned with strawberry and basil was served. It was paired with a 2015 Vouvray, Cuvée Constance from Domaine Huet, Loire ($169 – rating: 4.1 / 5.0). Although this was the least impressive wine of the night, it still served its purpose. The wine’s residual sweetness, coupled with bright acidity, made for a decent pairing with the dessert, cleansing the palate and wrapping up the dinner experience nicely.

The Judgement of St. James’s was a gastronomic spectacle that tantalized the senses with a carefully curated symphony of flavors. The true star of the evening, however, was the impeccable wine pairing, showcasing the best of France and USA. It was a night to remember, a testament to the enchanting dance of food and wine when expertly choreographed.

Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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