Judgment at Paris, Revisited

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Thirty years later, how do California wines stand up against their French counterparts? You make the call.

Thirty years ago, a young British wine retailer had the big idea to put a group of unknown Napa wines up against some the Grand-Cru wines of France in a blind tasting. So utterly outrageous was the premise that almost no one, but a single journalist from Time Magazine, bothered to even attend the event. At the time the idea that these young, New World vintners--including Chateau Montelena and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars--would even be considered in the same class as the Bordeaux and White Burgundies of  France was utterly implausible.  C'est impossible.

Confident, almost cocky, the judges swirled and sipped, pronouncing the winners and scoffing at what they thought were the noble, but altogether immature efforts of California winemakers. But a funny thing happened: they were wrong. When the winners were revealed, a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and the 1973 cabernet sauvignon from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars emerged as the top bottles of the day. The wines beat out some of the greatest White Burgundies and Red Bordeaux of the time.

Finally, the growers of Napa had something on which to hang their hats, and in true competitive spirit, they've tried to hang those hats and just about any other chapeau they can find on beating the French at their own game, ever since.

This year, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the event, COPIA will host an exclusive blind wine tasting and judging event to sample the finest New and Old World Wines (Napa vs. France, Part Deux) and see who triumphs thirty years later.

The simultaneous judging of Modern Chardonnays vs. White Burgundies and Modern Cabernets vs. Red Bordeaux will happen on May 24 at COPIA and Waddesdon Manor (the historic home of the Rothschild family) in the UK. The judges will also historic bottles from the 1976 tasting and re-judge them.On the 27th at COPIA,  guest are invited to try the modern vintages and come to their own conclusions as to whether Napa's wines still compare favorably to the wines of France.

After the tasting, you can join Jim Barrett, Bernard Portet, author George Taber, Warren Winiarski and others, as they discuss the 1976 tasting and how it affected the wine world then and now. The panel is moderated by Patricia Gastaud Gallagher, co-organizer of the original 1976 Paris Tasting.

Wines participating in the tasting include the following:

Modern Chardonnays & White Burgundies:

Chateau Montelena 2003
Mount Eden Vineyard
Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard 2004 Hyde Vineyard
Peter Michael 2003 Point Rouge
Ramey 2002 Hyde Vineyard
Talley 2002 Rosemary's Vineyard
Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouches
Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Caillerets
Latour Corton-Charlemagne
Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Pucelles
Ramonet Batard Montrachet
Roulot Meursault Charmes

Modern Cabernets and Red Bordeaux:

Clos du Val 2000 Reserve
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 2001
Joseph Phelps 2002 Insignia
Ridge 2000 Monte Bello
Shafer 2001 Hillside Select
Chateau Haut-Brion
Chateau Latour
Chateau Leoville-las-Cases
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Montrose

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