1976 – 2004 Paris Tasting and beyond

By the early 1970s California’s reputation for making fine wine had improved somewhat but only serious wine enthusiasts were taking notice. In 1976 a friendly wine tasting competition was arraigned in France called “The Paris Tasting.” The intent was to compare French wines with some of their upstart California wine rivals. By all accounts, the French fully expected to dominate the competition and re-assert their dominance in wine making. There seemed to be a wide spread belief amongst the French wineries that there could be only one out come to such a head to head competition. The taste test would be blind and presided over by a panel of expert French wine judges.


The wines tasted were 4 whites from France’s Burgundy region against 6 California Chardonnays and 4 red Bordeaux against 6 California Cabernet Sauvignon. Much to everyone’s surprise, not to mention the delight of the California wine country contingent, the top scoring wine over all was not French, but a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena in the Napa Valley wine country. The top scoring red wine was also from the Napa wine valley, a 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. From that point on California wine country was to take the world by storm with the Napa wineries leading the way.

Since that time investment and growth throughout the California wine country have proceeded steadily. Though much of the new money has come from Europe, most of the California wine country retains a decidedly family run and local feel. The craze for the California wine country that begun in those heady, post- Paris Tasting days, has picked up steam through the 90s as new medical information about the links between red wine and cardiovascular health have turned a new segment of American onto wine drinking. Today winemaking and wine tourism are the biggest part of the economies of the Napa and Sonoma wine country, supported by nearly 400 wineries between them. Whether you are a wine aficionado, just getting into wine or are only interested in seeing the beauty of this world-renowned area, a Sonoma and Napa wine country tour is a great way to spend the day no matter what the time of year.


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