Judgement of Paris: California versus France
Thu, November 18, 2021 from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Our Judgement of Paris wine class pits two of our favorite wine countries in an epic battle of uncorked fury. Our series of VERSUS classes are hugely popular, and this is one of the shining jewels. France was the undisputed heavyweight champ of the wine world until 1976 when California unseated the Gallic winemakers at the Judgement of Paris wine tasting.
In this class, we don’t replicate that tasting. Instead, we bring in a how series of fresh new faces in this battle of the bottles. Who will win? That’s up to you.
What is the Judgement of Paris?
The story starts with George Taber, a reporter for Time Magazine back in 1976. He was the only American journalist at a wine tasting in Paris that pitted French wines against Californians. He witnessed a surprise upset that elevated California wines in the eyes of America and the world: the panel of respected French sommeliers named the American wines as superior.
George’s reporting on what came to be known as “The Judgement of Paris” had a dramatic effect on the American wine-buying public. By the early 1980’s, Napa had become shorthand for luxury-level wines.
We first met George at a mutual friend’s winery. He had just published an account of that historical tasting, and the book soon went on to become an international bestseller.
Here’s the review of Taber’s book “Judgement of Paris” from Publishers Weekly:
In 1976, a Paris wine shop arranged a tasting as a gimmick to introduce some California wines; the judges, of course, were all French and militantly chauvinistic. Only one journalist bothered to attend, a Time correspondent, looking for a possible American angle. The story he got turned out to be a sensation. In both red and white blind tastings, an American wine won handily: a 1973 Stag’s Leap cabernet and a 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay. When the story was published the following week, it stunned both the complacent French and fledgling American wine industries—and things have never been the same since. Taber, the Time man, has fashioned an entertaining, informative book around this event. Following a brisk history of the French-dominated European wine trade with a more detailed look at the less familiar American effort, he focuses on the two winning wineries, both of which provide him with lively tales of colorful amateurs and immigrants making good, partly through willingness to experiment with new techniques. While the outrage of some of the judges is funny, this is a serious business book, too, sure to be required reading for American vintners and oenophiles
George also did us a great honor and wrote a charming review of our first cookbook, Corked & Forked.
Tasting Sheets for Judgment of Paris
1. Henri Bourgeois 2017 La Cote des Monts Damnes, Sancerre
2. Robert Mondavi 2014 Fume Blanc, Oakville
1. Domaine Baron Thenard 2014 Cellier aux Moines, Givry Premier Cru
2. Truchard 2011 Pinot Noir, Carneros
Domaine Lafage 2016 Narassa, Cotes du Catalanes
Ravenswood 2014 Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa
1. Chateau Carbonnieux 2014 Grand Cru Classe de Graves
2. Merryvale 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa