Each glass of wine is part of a never-ending journey. That observation was often stated by Jim Sanders, an embodiment of wine and food expertise, a combination soldier, scholar, traveler, chef, winemaker, importer, retailer and restauranteur.
Like a potter with clay, Sanders transformed wine beginners like me into something more than a curious drinker. His wine classes were akin to post-graduate sessions at a university. Thousands completed these six week delights which, unlike most counterparts, involved tasting the finest wines from heralded winemakers. The pours of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhones, Champagnes and others were never minuscule: You had to pace yourself at the risk of being over served.
Admission was invitation only. Students ranged from housewives to cardiologists, professors and lawyers to clerks and journalists. Sanders, in a reference to the medical professionals enrolled in his classes, liked to quip that the backroom of his wine shop where classes were held was “the safest place in America to have a heart attack.”
Sanders administered a written final exam, accompanied by glasses of Margaux.
Jim Sanders earned a Master’s in English from Emory University and joined the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He was wounded five times and said those days were his happiest.
While most veterans returned home, Sanders went to France and bicycled the countryside, stopping to visit vineyards, learning the language, making friends. He studied and became a chef and got to know some important people in France’s wine industry.
Returning home to Atlanta, Sanders launched a career as a wine importer/retailer and restauranteur. He wrote wine columns for prestigous magazines and developed his own cuvée for the 187 highly-regarded Burgundies bearing his label J.Sanders.
Pairing wines with food should always be fun and adventurous. But, that doesn’t mean ignoring basics. To my knowledge, the wine pairing chart devised by Sanders stands alone as a reliable guide for wines suitable for most dishes. By the way, the wines are all French and the chart is the centerfold in Sanders amazing cookbook.
What French wines pair well with barbecue and Georgia Brunswick Stew? Sanders recomends a Cru Beaujolais or Crozes-Hermitage.
I attended festivities honoring Julia Child on her 90th Birthday. Guest speakers included the top names in wine. The events were dreamlike. Priceless memories.
Thinking back, I wonder if my enjoyment would have been lessened had I not taken Jim Sanders’ wine course and tasted his incomparable wines?
My bookshelves are lined with volumes from Jim Sanders library. I have all his lecture notes and copies of his magazine articles. The recipes in his cookbook find their way into my columns or kitchen regularly.
Soon, I’ll be serving his timeless recipe Peach Melba with Champagne for dinner guests.