This bottle of 1973 Chardonnay was made by Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, winemaker at Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, California. This vintage outranked some of France's best white Burgundies at a blind tasting held in Paris in 1976.
Organized by Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant, the tasting involved a panel of nine experienced French judges. They compared a select group of wines from France and California without benefit of knowing which was which. The judges were taken aback when they realized they had awarded first prize to an American Chardonnay in the white category. When they also scored a California red (1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon) higher than any of the French contenders in the same competition, the rest of the wine world took notice.
The "Judgment of Paris" had a huge impact on the California and U.S. wine industry. It crushed the widely-held belief that only the French could make premium wine and inspired American vintners to expand their operations. The aftermath of the tasting played out most vigorously in California, where, between 1975 and 2004, the number of wineries grew from 330 to 1,689. By 2004, California accounted for most of the $643 million in annual U.S. wine exports.
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