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40 years after Judgement of Paris – strange facts


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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Stags Leap 1972 Cabernet
These are the same vines that created the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

40 years after Judgement of Paris – strange facts

Both Chateau Montelena and Stags Leap Wine Cellars are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “Judgement of Paris.” It’s a great anniversary in wine and a great PR event for these two wineries and the entire Napa Valley wine industry. The blind tasting results shocked the world of wine and put the Napa Valley on the map as one of the great wine regions of the world. The tasting took place in Paris and was organized by Steven Spurrier, a London wine merchant. French wine experts blind tasted California wines against the great Bordeaux and White Burgundy wines of France. To the absolute shock of everyone, the top Cabernet Sauvignon was a 1973 Stags Leap Cellars and the top Chardonnay was a 1973 Chateau Montelena, both from the Napa Valley. If you would like to learn the full saga of this famous tasting, read George Taber’s “Judgement of Paris.” George Taber worked for Time Magazine at the time and was the only reporter present at the tasting. The book is a comprehensive look at the events leading up to the tasting, how the tasting was done, and the wine world’s reaction to the outcome. 40 years after the Judgement of Paris, a few strange facts remain that are seldom mentioned in reports of this historic wine tasting event.

Chardonnay grapes not all from the Napa Valley

chardonnay montelena
Agreement to sell Chardonnay

If you visit the Bacigalupi Vineyards’ tasting room near Healdsburg on Westside Road, you will see this framed document. It shows a 1973 agreement made by Charles Bacigalupi to sell 14.165 tons of Chardonnay grapes to Chateau Montelena. These grapes came from the Bacigalupi Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. These old Chardonnay vineyards near the tasting room are producing grapes to this day. It is also known that an additional 20 tons of the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay came from another grower in the Alexander Valley. Exactly how much of the Montelena Chardonnay came from the Napa Valley is not exactly known. We do know that Mike Grgich was then the winemaker at Chateau Montelena and produced this historic Chardonnay.

Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Stags Leap 1972 Cabernet
1972 Cabernet

The reports stated that the 1973 Stags Leap Cellars was the first vintage produced by Warren Winiarski. Folks were raving about the astonishing fact that a first vintage produced by a winemaker could be so good. However, little known to but a few, this was not the first vintage for Stags Leap Wine Cellars. A 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon was produced and that was the first vintage at Stags Leap. Warren Winiarski was not happy with this wine and decided not to release the wine. But before that decision, some of the 1972 made into a few wine shops.

“Bottle Shock” movie loosely based on fact

It is rather amazing that a true factual movie of this event has not been made. Some of you have seen the movie “Bottle Shock.” It is an enjoyable movie but loosely based on the real facts of the Judgement of Paris. Mike Grgich, the winemaker at the time at Chateau Montelena, is not even mentioned in the movie. The saga of the Cabernet Sauvignon tasting is not featured. However, in the works is a film that will be based on George Taber’s book. The screenplay was written by Robert Mark Kamen of “Karate Kid,” “Lethal Weapon 3” and “A Walk in the Clouds” fame.

Additional Information on the 40th anniversary of the Judgement of Paris


  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.