1976 Judgment of Paris
In a few weeks, I will be making my yearly trip out to California. This year, I will also head north to Oregon. Every year that passes, I am consistently impressed by the advancements and the quality of the wines. California is (usually) lucky, and have a consistently good run of weather and hence vintages. I have found California goes through trends, from a more Bordeaux style 20 years ago to overripe 10 years ago, to a style in between. I believe California winemakers are in the hunt for a specific style, however, I doubt they will ever find one. I believe there will be multiple styles up and down the west coast, and this is ok. Actually, this is more than ok, this is exciting since unless you know the winery, you have no idea what you are getting into. California is producing some of the most exciting wine in its history, and I am very excited about what I will find in a couple of weeks.
For those who don't know, the history of California wine is pretty interesting. I will skip the early years of prohibition, which ended in the 1930s, and I will jump to the year 1976. A year which changed the wine world forever. A famous wine merchant by the name of Steven Spurrier, who owned a wine bar in Paris, had recently tried some California wines and was impressed. He was not just impressed but thought they could rival some of the best wines in France. No-one believed this to be true, and many just laughed at his suggestion. Steven was convinced and suggested a blind tasting (which was rarely done in those days) with the best judges in France being selected. The wines chosen by Steven would represent the best each country had to offer. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays would be presented.
The results of this tasting sent an earthquake through the wine world. No-one expected any Californian wine to come in top 3, yet they did better. They finished top of both the Red and White category. The wine world stopped moving. What just happened? California beat the best Burgundy and Bordeaux wines? Yes, and it changed the wine world forever.
The results of the Judgment of Paris can be seen below:
Red Wines of the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting:
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973, Napa Valley (127.5)
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970 (126)
Château Haut-Brion 1970 (125.5)
Château Montrose 1970 (122)
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ’Mountain Range’ (Montebello) 1971, Santa Cruz Mts. (105.5)
Château Leoville-Las-Cases 1971 (97)
Mayacamas 1971, Napa Valley/Mayacamas Mts. (89.5)
Clos Du Val 1972, Napa Valley (87.5)
Heitz Cellars ’Martha’s Vineyard’ 1970, Napa Valley/St. Helena (84.5)
Freemark Abbey 1969, Napa Valley/Rutherford (78)
White Wines of the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting:
Chateau Montelena 1973, Napa Valley/Calistoga (132)
Meursault-Charmes 1973, Roulot (126.5)
Chalone Vineyards 1974, Monterey County/Soledad (121)
Spring Mountain 1973, Napa Valley/Spring Mountain (104)
Beaune Clos des Mouches 1973, Joseph Drouhin (101)
Freemark Abbey 1972, Napa Valley/Rutherford (100)
Batard-Montrachet 1973, Ramonet-Prudhon (94)
Puligny-Montrachet 1972, Les Pucelles, Domaine Leflaive (89)
Veedercrest 1972, Napa Valley/Mt. Veeder (88)
David Bruce 1973, Santa Cruz Mts. (42)
The results were conclusive. California produces some of the best wine in the world. This put California on the map and put France under the spotlight, ever since both regions have been pushing limits and producing better and better wine.
What will California have in store for me this year? I am only hoping for better than 18 months ago, and that was already at a world-class level. To be continued.....