FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Judgment of Paris

In 1976, Steven Spurrier, a wine-shop owner in Paris, and his American associate, Patricia Gallagher, organized a blind wine tasting. The event, in honor of the American Bicentennial, pitted renowned reds from Bordeaux and whites from Burgundy against Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays from California—varietals considered the exclusive domain of the French.

Although the tasting had started as a publicity stunt, when two American wines—red and white—placed first, the event took on unexpected significance. The “Judgment of Paris” was a triumph for California winemakers and changed the way people at home and abroad saw the new American wine industry.

Paris tasting, 1976

Paris tasting, 1976

All photos taken by and used courtesy of Bella Spurrier

The panel of judges, all French.

Paris tasting, 1976

Paris tasting, 1976

The panel of judges, all French.

1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

Gift of James Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena Winery

This 1973 Chardonnay from Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena placed first at the 1976 Paris tasting, ahead of the best French white Burgundies. The winemaker was Miljenko (Mike) Grgich, who had come to California from his native Yugoslavia (Croatia) in 1958.

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1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet

Gift of Warren Winiarski

The 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley placed first among the reds in the 1976 Paris tasting. It was the second crop and first vintage produced by winemaker and winery founder Warren Winiarski.

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Wine Glass, 1970s

Gift of Steven Spurrier

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Wine glass, 1970s

Gift of Steven Spurrier

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Tasting glasses from L’Académie du Vin, which Steven Spurrier established as the first independent wine school in France. Spurrier and his business associate Patricia Gallagher organized the 1976 Paris Tasting.