“Bottle Shock” was a film, very loosely, based on the famous 1976 blind tasting in Paris called the Judgment of Paris in which two California wines won, much to the chagrin of the French expert wine tasters. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay created by winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich won over white Burgundy wines of impeccable pedigree and Warren Winiarski’s 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Cabernet Sauvignon won the red category (French wines largely from old growth Bordeaux vineyards).
Not only were these two wines winners, but many other new world wineries scored highly against their French rivals. In the white category Chalone Winery, Spring Mountain Vineyard, Freemark Abbey, Veedercrest Vineyards, and David Bruce Winery. In the red category Ridge Vineyards, Mayacamas Vineyards, Heitz Cellar, Clos du Val Winery, and Freemark Abbey. The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 had a revolutionary impact on expanding the production and prestige of wine in the new world and is considered the original stimulus for American wine growth and popularity.
Forty years later Napa Valley and the wines of Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap are again being highlighted in a variety of events, commemorative bottlings and unique tastings. Joining the Fifth Annual Flavor Napa Valley events were winemakers Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena Winery and Marcus Nataro of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. At Chateau Montelena only ten bottles of the 1973 vintage Chardonnay remain in their cellars and a scant two cases of the 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. Bottles of the rare wines are rumored to be part of a wine experience to be offered at Auction Napa Valley in June.
Moderated by sommelier Christopher Sawyer, the tasting at Flavor Napa Valley showcased three wines from each winery representing their commitment to quality over the past four decades. Chateau Montelena presented their 2009 and 2013 Napa Valley Chardonnay and their 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars presented their 1993, 2002 and 2012 Stag’s Leap Vineyards (S.L.V.) Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
This tasting at the Silverado Resort and Spa was followed by the crème-de-la-crème, a five-course dinner menu paired with wines from many of the original Judgment of Paris wineries and starring the Culinary Institute of America’s all-star alumni chefs.
Napa Valley is now becoming as well known for its luminaries of the culinary world as it is for its wine. A press release stated “Sequestered within four square miles [sic in Napa Valley], Yountville’s prowess as a culinary powerhouse is unmatched”; the town boasts the largest concentration of Michelin stars per capita “on the planet.”
Additional events are being held in Sonoma County at Bacigalupi Vineyards, the historical chardonnay vineyard, home of some of the grapes used in the original 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay. After a couple of vintages, all of the grapes were harvested in Napa Valley vineyards, but the historical vines still exist on the Bacigalupi property and are used in many classic chardonnays from both Sonoma County and Napa Valley to this day.