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Re-enacting the Judgement of Paris at the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair kick-off

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On Wednesday night, the Sugar Land branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science was transformed into an elegant dinner venue as they played host to the VIP Kickoff dinner for this year’s Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.

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The evening, entitled the “Judgement of Paris,” sought to re-enact the famous 1976 Parisian tasting in which judges awarded winning scores to new world California wines over old world wines from France. During the dinner, two white wines and two red wines would be poured blind, and each guest would provide a score for the wines based on appearance, aroma, balance, and overall taste.

The soiree began on the upper landing with a cocktail hour of sparkling wine and canapes, including a brie in puff pastry, miniature tarragon chicken crepes, and miniature quiche lorraine. Guests had full access to the museums upper floors, and could be seen wandering through the exhibits during the cocktail hour, champagne flutes in hand. Adding to the spirit of the event were two figures dressed in 18th century Parisian garb, who mixed and mingled with guests as they offered tastings of Bartles & Jaymes.

As the cocktail hour ended, staff sporting Parisian-style black berets led guests into the main dining room, where tables -- beautifully set with an array of glass stemware -- had been arranged around the museum’s massive dinosaur skeleton.

Dinner kicked off with a brief introduction by the evening’s host, writer and radio host John Demers, followed by a four course meal by Abuso Catering. The first course, a lovely goat cheese salad with champagne reduction, raspberries, and microgreens, was paired with an oaky white wine, which the guests around our table guessed to be a California Chardonnay.

The second course, a poached sole with sauteed asparagus and Chardonnay mushroom sauce, was paired with a lighter white wine, which our table guessed to be a French Chardonnay.

A third course of braised cotes de boeuf (short ribs) with potato croquettes and bordelaise was served with the two red wines of the night. The first wine had a more balanced structure, displaying finesse and a much smoother finish. The second wine was a lot drier and had a stronger tannic structure. Both paired well with the beef dish, and a selection of miniature french patisserie concluded the evening.

In the end, much in the same way that it happened in 1976, the winning wine of the evening -- after a tabulation of the scores of 200-plus guests -- was the Reynolds 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Select, a new world California wine. The other wines for the evening were revealed as: a 2011 Domaine Darnat Chardonnay La Jumalie from Burgundy; a 2011 Jax Vineyards Cold Creek Ranch Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros, USA; and Château Greysac Médoc Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, France.

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is currently underway and runs through April 27, 2014. For information on events and ticketing, please visit: www.sugarlandwineandfoodaffair.com.

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