Mari Stull : The Vino Vixen™
It was June 7, 1976 and America was jubilant in celebration of her bicentennial. Just two hundred years young, the US of A was full of confidence, aplomb, and a deep sense of national pride. And for the California wine industry this was the date that launched her wines into national fame. And Stag’s Leap led the way…
Steven Spurrier, an English owner of a Paris wine ship, orchestrated the now infamous “Judgement of Paris” wine competition. The competition pitted the “inferior upstarts of America” against the “superior terror of France.” The competition was considered such a wash that only a single wine journalist was in attendance. And fortunate for the Americans and Stag’s Leap, George Taber, an American based in Paris for Time Magazine, was the sole journalist covering the event. Lucky – because Taber was fluent in French and knew his wine well enough to understand how momentous this competition would be for American (and French) wines (if not for a few decades).
Zee Snooty French Get a Smack Down
The competition was judged by some of the foremost palates in the world – with the majority being French. This is significant because as snooty and egotistical as the French are about fashion, food, politics, and anything else French – that condescension pales to their feelings of superiority of their wine. In 1976, the French were regarded as the eminent winemakers. And their terroir, as the pinnacle producers of the best wines in the world. Especially relative to the young upstarts in America who had only just begun commercial production of Chardonnay mere decades ago.
The blindtasting witnessed the French judges patronizingly declaring such fits of arrogance as "That is definitely California. It has no nose," (said of a 1973 Batard Montrachet from Burgundy) and "Ah, back to France!" (said of a Chardonnay from Napa Valley's Freemark Abbey winery).
And the Americans Ride to Victory
The upshot of the challenge was that the American wines embarrassed the French yet one more time in history. The top six red wine winners were from Napa Valley. Leading the winner’s circle at number one was Stag’s Leap Cellars. The whites fared just as well with Chateau Montelena (Napa Valley) at the number one spot. Email me on VinoVixen@VinoVixen.com to find out the rest of the winners.
Stag’s Leap Dinner at National Harbour
General Manager and winemaker of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Jeff McBride is in town next Wednesday, March 18 at Old Hickory at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbour. Celebrating his appearance is a five course wine dinner for $125 all inclusive of tax and gratuity. That’s seven Stag’s Leap wines, five courses, reception and cheese course.
If you are curious to sip the Cabernet Sauvignon that is the offspring of the Paris Tasting winner – you’ll have to wait for the fifth course. The wine to behold is Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Vineyard Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004. Produced in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the tasting, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars released 73 limited edition 3‐litre commemorative bottles of the Napa Valley winery’s flagship wine, the 2003 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon. Each of the hand‐etched, painted and numbered bottles is housed in a custom walnut box, and, with a nod to the year of the tasting, is available to for $1,976.
For reservations to the Stag’s Leap Wine Dinner, call (301) 965-2718. Reservations are required.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 — 7:00 p.m. Old Hickory Steakhouse — Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. $125 per person, includes tax and gratuity.
Tell ‘em The Vino Vixen sent you!
The Vino Vixen™ is Mari Stull – Syndicated wine columnist, correspondent for Wine Taste TV, and member of the Society of Wine Educators. Have a wine question or comment for Mari? She can be reached at VinoVixen@vinovixen.com.