The 40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris

About | American History (After Hours) | Winemakers’ Dinner | Wine in our Exhibitions

Series of three images of a wine tasting

What was the Judgment of Paris?

The Judgment of Paris is widely regarded as the pivotal moment of rebirth for American winemaking and winegrowing after the industry’s devastation during Prohibition.

Held in Paris on May 24, 1976, the Judgment of Paris, or Paris Tasting, was a formal blind tasting of twelve vintages of California wines – six Chardonnay and six Cabernet Sauvignon – that would be judged against the best of France’s Burgundy and Bordeaux.

The tasting was organized by an English wine merchant, Steven Spurrier, who owned a small wine shop and wine school in Paris. Spurrier and his business partner, American Patricia Gallagher, enlisted nine well-respected French judges for the blind tasting and while members of the French wine press ignored or declined Spurrier’s invitation, one American journalist, Time’s George Taber, agreed to attend. After results were tallied, first for the white tasting and then for the reds, surprise turned to shock as two American vintages, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, scored first in their respective groups. These results crushed the then widely-held belief that only the French could make premium wine and brought significant  acclaim to the winning winemakers and wineries and the Napa Valley wine region.

This May marks the 40th anniversary of this tremendous moment for American wine. To celebrate, the National Museum of American History is holding two special events on Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 17: a special American History (After Hours) evening and the annual Winemakers’ Dinner

Above images of the 1976 Judgment of Paris are courtesy of Bella Spurrier.


The Judgment of Paris text over a picture of three people drinking wine

American History (After Hours):
The Judgment of Paris & American Wine

Monday, May 16 • 6:30 – 9:00 pm  • $40


An evening of wine tasting, food, and dynamic conversation! Join us for a conversation about the legacy of the Paris Tasting and American wine history from the people who were there and then test your own wine tasting skills and more in an interactive reception. Listen and learn from the experts themselves:

  • Steven Spurrier – The organizer of the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
  • George Taber – The only journalist to cover the tasting and author of The Judgment of Paris.
  • Warren Winiarski – The winemaker of the winning 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
  • Bo Barrett – The current owner of Chateau Montelena and son of the late Jim Barrett who owned Chateau Montelena at the time of the Judgment of Paris.
  • Violet Grgich – The daughter and co-proprietor of Mike Grgich, the winemaker of the winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and founder of the winery, Grgich Hills.
  • Ted Baseler – The CEO of Ste. Michelle Estates and CEO of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

The reception will include tastings, activities, and original winemaking objects and artifacts from our collections. Tickets include wine tastings and a hearty plate of appetizers.

Image courtesy of Bella Spurrier.

American History (After Hours): The Judgment of Paris & American Wine is made possible through generous support from: 

Altria Group 

Wegmans Food Market, Inc.


The Judgment of Paris text over an image of a wine tasting

2016 Winemakers’ Dinner
The 40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris

Tuesday, May 17 • 6:30 – 9:30 pm


In 1996, on the 20th anniversary of this historic event, the Museum collected bottles of the winning vintages and launched a major research project on American winemaking. Now, on the 40th anniversary, the Museum is bringing together an extraordinary group of people with connections to the Judgment of Paris for an unforgettable evening of food, wine, and history.

The Winemakers’ Dinner is a fundraiser for the Museum’s American Food and Wine History Project. This year’s event will feature the following winemakers who will share their wines, their own stories, and their thoughts on the legacy of the Paris Tasting:  

  • Bo Barrett
    CEO, Chateau Montelena Winery
    Son of the late Jim Barrett, former owner, Chateau Montelena Winery
  • Heidi Barrett
    Winemaker, Owner, La Sirena
  • Ted Baseler
    President & CEO, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
  • Violet Grgich
    Co-Proprietor, VP of Sales and Marketing, Grgich Hills Estate
    Daughter of Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, winemaker, Winning 1973 Chardonnay
  • Warren Winiarski
    Winemaker, Winning 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Founder, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Image courtesy of Bella Spurrier

The 2016 Winemakers' Dinner is made possible through generous funding from:

Warren Winiarski

Altria Group


A sign welcoming visitors to the Napa Valley
The Napa Valley Vintners’ Association dedicated a sign welcoming visitors to the Napa Valley, 1950. Courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery.

Wine in our Exhibitions:
Wine for the Table

On view in FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
First Floor, East

View the exhibition website

This exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History explores the big changes in food production, distribution, and consumption since 1950 and considers how new technologies and innovations, influential people, and broad shifts in social and cultural life contributed to the transformations in how and what we eat. One section of the exhibition-- Wine for the Table--looks at the reimagining of American wine and winemaking in the second half of the 20th century, when a community of California dreamers sparked a revolution in a bottle that changed the world of wine.



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