The wine tasting heard around the world!
By Gregory D. McCluney
The California wine industry, and the entire U.S., owes Stephen Spurrier a great deal of gratitude. Just as America celebrated its bi-centennial, the British wine merchant, whose shop just happened to be in Paris, Caves de la Madeleine, organized a blind tasting of several classic French wines and some mostly unknown (in France) California labels including Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap. The French wines from Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Leflaive were tasted along with Heitz, David Bruce, Ridge and Chalone. California cabs from Stag’s Leap, Clos du Val, Freemark Abbey plus Mayacamas were tasted with classic Bordeaux icons Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion and Leoville-Las-Cases.
When the California wines clearly emerged as the winners of the blind tasting, the wine world changed for California wines, Napa and beyond. It should be noted that the judges were French, with just two exceptions, including Spurrier. This victory of forty years ago set the stage for credibility in winemaking and vineyard quality that California needed. Now some of the world’s best wines had been made in some non-French wineries and vineyards. New world meets old world and, in this tasting, the new world won.
First place went to Napa’s Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, 1973, and Stag’s Leap Cellars for its Cabernet Sauvignon, 1973. In May, celebrations and special wine dinners will be held throughout Napa Valley to honor the forty year anniversary of this historic judgment.
Locally, on Friday May 20, Vino Venue will recognize the Judgment of Paris with a special educational tasting. From 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., current vintages of many of the same wines tasted in the 1976 event will be sampled in a classroom setting, with comments and a presentation by Michael Bryan, Atlanta Wine School founder. The wines will include two American reds and two whites tasted alongside two French reds and whites, respectively, all accompanied by light bites. Visit the website for reservations and more information.
Some wine writers and critics feel that California wines would not fare as well today in a similar tasting, depending on who does the judging. Certainly the big, bold, fruity young California cabs of today are very different wines than those made in 1976. But so are many Bordeaux wines, which have changed their styles (and age-ability) to compete in a world market. Thirty years ago, a similar tasting was organized, and again, California proved itself. Who would win a similar competition in 2016? As usual, it would depend on what the judges are looking for on a given day, in a given year, but the odds are still with these California classics.
To learn more, with some liberties taken for entertainment in filmmaking, watch the 2008 movie Bottle Shock. For instance, tasting wines in competition outside in the summer sun is not recommended!
At Vino Venue, we’re kicking off Spring as we do best- with a walk-around Discover Festival! On Sunday, April 17th, Chef Jordan Wakefield of Smoke Ring joins our own Executive Chef Daniel Rivers for Cork & Pork, the newest addition to our popular Discover festival series.
Chef Wakefield will be serving a variety of styles of barbecue and fixings, with classics like smoked whole hog, baby back ribs, brisket, smoked chicken, pickled shrimp, tons of pulled pork and an array of sauces and side items. Vino Venue and Chef Daniel will deliver barbecue-friendly wines, craft beers and additional sides including the build-your-own tater-tot station. Guests will be able to take advantage of perfect spring weather at this indoor/outdoor event, with wine and other beverages available inside Vino Venue and Smoke Ring’s barbecue rigs in the parking lot.
Guests should expect 50-100 beverages for sampling on this spring day, with the option to purchase any of their favorite tastes by the bottle, six pack or case – one of the unique features of the Discover event series that has made it so popular. Don’t miss out and get your tickets today for the hottest wine, barbecue and beer event of the year!