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"Sipping with Henry"

  by Fred McMillin



This is a true story...

The telephone rang at 2 A.M. The young lady sleepily answered it.
"How're you doing, babe?"
Taken aback, she said, "To whom did you wish to speak?"
"0h...not to anyone who says 'to whom.'"

At NBC Channel 4 in San Francisco, when you enter the studios to tape a wine program with ace host Henry Tenenbaum, they say "to whom." I had three impressions: the people are courteous, efficient and sharp. Example:


You Don't Have To Tell Henry Twice

On a Wednesday, Henry and I talked for five minutes on the phone about the wines we would taste, and their background.

Two days later we taped the show. with no notes, Henry led the sipping and chatting exactly as planned. Having done a number of other interviews that I regarded as train wrecks, this one was a joy.

So what was the topic?.."From Noah to Napa, the History of Wine," a course I'll be teaching next spring at San Francisco State's College of Extended Learning (phone 415-563-5712 to enroll). Here are the wines Henry and I tasted, but first, their background.

C. Mitchell Muscat Noah - After the flood subsided, a window of the ark was opened. "All of mankind had turned to clay. The ground was flat like an [ancient] roof." Modern archeology found the flood. In Iraq, it left a deposit of clay 100 miles wide and 400 miles long, deposited some 5,000 years ago. After the deluge, Noah planted a Muscat. About five years later, there were sufficient grapes for a harvest. The resulting wine was tasted about the following February.

A descendant of Noah's vine is the Muscat of Alexandria, the oldest living wine grape. We tasted Charles Mitchell's version, Sierra Foothills, $9. For much more about all of this, see the August 27, 1997 WineDay titled, "The Flood and the Vine".

Dom Perignon—Henry's favorite of the tasting was this $100 sparkler. How did it get it's name? It is made by the Champagne house of Moet and Chandon. Dom Perignon was the semi-blind Benedictine monk credited by most as inventing Champagne in the 1690s. Claude Moet knew him well and started the Moet firm before long. In 1936 M. & S. decided to make the world's first prestige Champagne, and named it after this friend of their founder. For much more see our WineDay article about, "Dom Foam", Nov. 26, 1999. The other wines were Story Winery's Mission, Mirassou's Merlot and Robert Mondavi's Fumé Blanc. We'll cover them next month.



About those sharp and courteous people I must mention two others. Production manager Christina Ricci....since Italy is the world's largest wine producer, and Ricci is an Italian name, we had a lot to discuss. Cameraman Christian is a fondue and wine fan from Alsace. He had my mouth watering.


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