On May 24th, 1976, Steven Spurrier, an Englishman running a wine shop and wine school in Paris, organized a tasting of six top California cabernets and chardonnays to celebrate the American Bicentennial. He added four Bordeaux wines and four white Burgundies to act as markers against which to evaluate the Californians. The judges were among the best tasters in France, and, to everyone’s surprise, chose a California wine over the French for both the red and white flights. The tasting became known as the Judgment of Paris, and ended an era in which it was thought that fine wine came only from Europe. The response of the French judges to the results was that the California wines would not age and the French wines would win if tasted again in 30 years.
14.14 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
14.09 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970
13.64 Chateau Montrose 1970
13.23 Chateau Haut-Brion 1970
12.14 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971
11.18 Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1971
10.36 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard 1970
10.14 Clos Du Val Winery 1972
9.95 Mayacamas Vineyards 1971
9.45 Freemark Abbey Winery 1969
On May 24, 2006, a 30 year re-enactment of the Judgment of Paris was organized by Steven Spurrier – this time with simultaneous tastings in London and in Napa at Copia. Paralleling the 1976 event, nine expert tasters at each location judged the original red wines, now over thirty years old. The winning wine in both the US and UK was the Ridge Monte Bello 1971. In the combined results, it was in a class by itself – eighteen points ahead of the second-place wine. We were very proud of this elegant Monte Bello’s showing on both sides of the Atlantic – especially given the prestige of the tasters. In the UK these included such well-known experts as Michael Broadbent, Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, and Michel Bettane.
Next, young whites and young reds – including this time several other top Californians – were tasted. Here, France and California were not in competition; though on the table together, French wines were rated against each other, likewise the Californians. To our delight, in the flight of California cabernets, the Ridge 2000 Monte Bello placed first in the expert panels’ combined results, but this time with a margin of only one point. It was up against some marvelous wines – among others the 2001 Shafer Hillside Select, the 2002 Phelps Insignia, and the 2001 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23. It was a great day for Ridge, for Monte Bello, and for wines made at a more moderate level of ripeness.
137 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971
119 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
112 Mayacamas Vineyards 1971
112 Heitz ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ 1970
106 Clos Du Val Winery 1972
105 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970
92 Chateau Montrose 1970
82 Chateau Haut-Brion 1970
66 Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1971
59 Freemark Abbey Winery 1967
Chefs Jeremiah Tower and Nancy Silverton host “The Legends Dinner” at chef Silverton’s restaurant Chi SPACCA in Los Angeles, featuring 2009 Ridge Monte Bello.