• By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm   |     |   Print   |   Permalink

At long last, wine has arrived at our National Museum of American History. I learned this a couple days ago when “surfing for interesting stuff” and while listening to an NPR interview with Bob Spitz, author of Dearie, a 500-page book about the life of Julia Child. Just as Mr. Spitz was describing how rare it is for a single individual to change attitudes, beliefs, and culture to the extent Julia Child did, I came across an article in Wines & Vines, a wine industry news journal, describing the blending of an American wine exhibit with one about the history of food in America set in Julia’s original home kitchen, now housed in the Smithsonian.

It’s certainly fair to say that American consumer interest in wine parallels the Julia Child years. The celebrated “French Chef” began her TV series in 1962, about the same time the wine industry began its big splurge in California on the way to impacting the entire nation. Child enthusiasts will recall with pleasure her public sips on a bit of wine because of her belief that good food deserves good wine.

Exhibit curator, Paula Johnson, agrees with winemakers that wine is an important part of American history. Called “Wine for the Table,” the exhibit shows how the industry recovered from Prohibition and includes a small display about the “Judgment of Paris,” that 1976 tasting in which some American wines outpointed some of the best French wines.  To exemplify the “American Grape,” another display focuses on the Zinfandel but reminds that the grape really originated in Croatia. It even pays homage to the White Zinfandel and its influence on beginning wine consumers.

Thomas Jefferson also gets some space because of his initial efforts to produce wine in Virginia.

In the interview, Spitz told of how shocked the TV producers were when Julia nonchalantly tested her wines on air but agrees that had had a profound effect on how Americans view the use of wine. Those of us privileged to have shared a drink or two with her still revel in the widespread availability these days of wine in our stores and restaurants.

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child was published last summer by Knopf.

Comments are closed.