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RIP Steven Spurrier

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Pat G

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RIP Steven Spurrier

by Pat G » Wed Mar 10, 2021 10:47 pm

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Peter May

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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Peter May » Thu Mar 11, 2021 10:18 am

He was a real gentleman. And always a dapper dresser.
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Robin Garr

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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 11, 2021 12:27 pm

Bart Broadbent had a really nice memorial on Facebook. I'll try to find it and, if it was public, share it here.
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Robin Garr » Thu Mar 11, 2021 12:38 pm

This is public (and long and thoughtful) so I'll post it.

Bartholomew Broadbent wrote:I am so sad to report that Steven Spurrier died last night just after midnight at his house in England. He will be best know for the Judgement of Paris, of which a film has been made, when he arranged a tasting in Paris pitting French wines against California wines in 1976 and America won, shocking the world. His accomplishments and accolades are too numerous to list here and there will be many obituaries, so I will share my personal relationship instead.
I wrote him an e-mail on Saturday which I'll share at the end of this post. He replied "Your mail means everything to me and I mean ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Michael, Daphne and you were corner stones to my life... but much more important is your friendship and our past together. Goodbye and thank you. With love Steven."
This is what I wrote about him for L'Academie du Vin Library's Steven Spurrier book published last year:
"Steven Spurrier has always been incredibly kind to me. When I was 17 years of age he gave me a summer job at Les Caves de la Madeleine, his wine shop in Cité Berryer, Paris. He put me up in my own very basic apartment and I arrived with a suitcase and a bottle of Pimm’s. It was memorable in so many ways. Quite often, one of his restaurant friends would ring up and ask for help at lunchtime, needing to borrow an employee from Steven. I can now claim that I have worked as a dishwasher in restaurants, having been sent to fill in for various no shows. One day, I was asked by the manager of Steven’s shop, Mark Williamson, who later became famous for Willi’s Wine Bar, to make a wine delivery. There was a lot of snickering and I was unclear as to why I was being sent to deliver to this regular, or what was so funny. Anyway, I trundled off with a few cases on a hand cart and found the building. Upon ringing the door bell, I was summoned by intercom to deliver the wine up a few floors. The door to the apartment was open and I deposited the cases of wine in the front hall, calling out for the lady who had to sign the receipt. Having not yet seen her, she shouted back summoning me down the hallway. I am not sure who was more surprised, her seeing that a child had replaced her usual manly deliveryman, or me seeing that she was in the bath expecting to give more than a signature.
Steven treasured the fact that my father called him the Peter Pan of the Wine Trade but, of course, he was a very close family friend too. I knew him well and the legendary stories about him even better. We saw each other frequently at family events, trade tastings, Vinexpo dinners, London Wine Fairs and so on but my first career association with him was when I was working for Schenley Canada in Toronto. Steven agreed that I could open a branch of L’Academie du Vin and he came over for the inauguration of this new chapter. He already had a branch in Montreal. In Toronto, I taught classes, discovering that the best way to learn about wine is to teach it. I learned everything I needed to know to teach wine classes from his excellent Academie du Vin Wine Course books and basically taught the syllabus verbatim from those. But we also arranged amazing tastings, such as a vertical of Chateau d’Yquem, which got me profiled and written up in The Wine Spectator in 1986.
To mark the 10th Anniversary of Steven's 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, he arranged a repeat tasting in New York city and asked me to be a Judge. This got a lot of press and I was very thankful that Steven gave me this opportunity and exposure. I didn’t really realize at the time the significance of him respecting my palate and, as the California wines beat the French again, the French press were scathing, picking apart every detail to make excuses. One detail picked up on by a French newspaper questioned the legitimacy of the Judges based on the fact that one of them was just a 24 year old kid who couldn’t possibly have the experience to know what makes a wine good!
Over the years, my friendship with Steven grew. From being my father’s little boy working a summer job in his Paris wine shop to the young wine professional from which a respect and friendship blossomed. It is not easy transitioning from knowing someone as a friend of your father’s to accepting that a genuine friendship of your own has grown. I find it hard to look up to someone like Steven [and Jancis Robinson] and not see them as friends of my parents but I never get the sense from Steven that he ever looks at me as anything but a friend in my own right.
Most recently, every year for the past few years, I have had the pleasure of Judging with Steven for the Governor’s Cup which takes place in Richmond, Virginia or Washington DC to taste through the best Virginia wines, picking 12 for the Governor’s Case and awarding one the overall trophy. Some very jolly dinners ensue and he is always tremendous fun. One year, he planned to stay with my family in Richmond, Virginia but our guest room was a mess and, instead, I arranged for him to stay with the then Governor and First Lady, Bob and Maureen McDonnell. I apologized to him and to the Governor about forcing Steven to slum it at the Governor’s Mansion. I think the Republican politics came as a bit of a shock to Steven which I thought was half the joke!
All told, Steven has had a tremendous influence in my life. I know that Steven calls my father his mentor, I think I just call Steven my friend."
This is what I wrote on Saturday. I hope it is not upsetting to you that I share such a very personal message but it does convey my feelings:
"Dear Steven
I woke up thinking about you. I know that you are not well and there is a possibility that I won’t get a chance to see you again. So I want to write and say how much our friendship means to me and what a huge influence you have been on my life.
I think you know how fond of you my parents were. You call my father a mentor and he probably thought of you in the same way. Above that you were simply one of his best friends.
It is interesting that I miss my mother more because my father was so big in the world of wine that I don’t feel he is gone. His presence is around all the time. He impacted so many people’s lives and he is referenced so often that it is like he is still alive in my world. I hope you know that you’ve had the same impact on people.
The thing about your fame is that it will grow and will, literally, live in history. You’ll become a fabled person. As long as the Napa Valley and America makes wine, your stature in history will grow. The fact that you are memorialized in the Smithsonian is something that cannot be said of any other of the wine greats. That is what you are; a Wine Great.
I’m so proud to call you my friend and I will talk about you forever, as I do about my father, with fondness, nostalgia, pride. Your friendship has elevated my status in the wine world for sure. And my memories of working in Paris and for you in Canada, these are stories which will grow bigger too.
I will promote your book. Thank God you’ve had a chance to write it. So sad that my father never got to finish his.
I’ve taken up enough of your precious time. I just want to let you know how much I love you and the world loves you. I wish I could drop by and say hello but I’ve still not managed to get back to England since my father died. What a terrible year. Please send my love to Bella and tell her that I hope to see her whenever I am back in London or she is always welcome to visit us here.
I’m thinking about you now and I will forever. I yearn for a miracle in your health returning but I don’t want to miss the chance to let you know how much you mean to me. Thank you for your friendship and support over so many years. I am a better person for it.
Bollew"
My heart goes out to his wife, Bella, and children, Christian and Kate. RIP
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Dale Williams » Thu Mar 11, 2021 2:13 pm

Decanter re-ran one of his most popular articles
https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opin ... es-372151/
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Tim York » Fri Mar 12, 2021 8:34 am

Way back in the 70s or 80s, I occasionally visited and bought at his shop near la Madeleine in Paris. I can't recall his ever being present during my visits but the staff were friendly and gave good advice. I don't think I ever had a disappointing bottle from there. Subsequently I have always appreciated his articles. RIP, Steven!
Tim York
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Pat G » Sat Oct 16, 2021 3:03 am

Read this last night. Memories of Steven, and the event panel rankings toward the end I found fascinating. So I share.

https://www.vinography.com/2021/10/the- ... test-wines
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Yup...

by TomHill » Sat Oct 16, 2021 10:52 am

At Bipin Desai's Ridge Retrospective tasting back in the mid-'90's, I shared lunch (at Valentino's or WolfgangPuck's) at a table with Stephen. He was the epitome of the perfect British gentleman. He wound up quizzing me most of lunch about Calif wineries I knew.
Tom
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Jenise » Sat Oct 16, 2021 10:56 am

Tom, not to go off track here but you bring up a name I remember reading about so often, Bipin Desai, and haven't seen in ages. For awhile, he seemed to throw a lot of tastings and the WS covered every one (or so it looked). Was always surprised to read that he was a professor at UC Riverside. One doesn't think of that kind of sophistication existing in Riverside.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Bipin...

by TomHill » Sat Oct 16, 2021 8:24 pm

Jenise wrote:Tom, not to go off track here but you bring up a name I remember reading about so often, Bipin Desai, and haven't seen in ages. For awhile, he seemed to throw a lot of tastings and the WS covered every one (or so it looked). Was always surprised to read that he was a professor at UC Riverside. One doesn't think of that kind of sophistication existing in Riverside.


Back in the day, BipinDesai and MarvinOverton organized these huge tastings. They always invited someone from the WineSphincter to cover them for the free publicity.
Marvin got religion/Baptist, became a teetotaler, and sold off his wine collection. He owned a huge ranch over towards LasVegas NM and I was always miffed he never invited me over for a glass of wine.
When Bipin did this 3-day Ridge retrospective, PaulDraper invited me to join him as his guest. Bipin is/was a highly regarded physicist at UC/Riverside and I got to talk a bit of Physics with him.
You do realize, Jenise, that us physicists are the epitome of sophistication!!
Tom
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Re: RIP Steven Spurrier

by Jenise » Sun Oct 17, 2021 11:24 am

'epitome of sophistication'

Well, yes, but you had the sense to settle in New Mexico, not Riverside! (I'm a former born-and-raised Angeleno and do not have a very favorable view of that town. Oh, and my sister the welfare case lives there.)

Thanks for The Rest of the Story. Didn't realize what happened to Marvin.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov

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