California Wines Best The French

Well, it appears California bottlings walked away the big winner at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the 1976 Tasting of Paris held in Napa Valley and London. Only the original reds tasted in 1976 and a new collection of reds from Bordeaux and Napa were compared against one another.

The winners are:

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 1971

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

In what must be a real surprise to many, California wines took the top five spots among the older wines in the following order:

Ridge Monte Bello 1971
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard 1970
Mayacamas 1971 (in a tie for 4th)
Clos du Val 1972.

The tasting of the newer white wines from Burgundy and California were not compared against one another. I can’t imagine why that determination was made.

This sort of reenactment also occurred before on the 10th anniversary of the original tasting. Again, it was Stephen Spurrier who organized that tasting. Eight judges evaluated 9 of the 10 original wines tasted in 1976. Those results were:

Clos Du Val Winery 1972

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971

Château Montrose 1971
âteau Leoville Las Cases 1971

Château Mouton Rothschild 1970
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973

Heitz Wine Cellars 1970

Mayacamas Vineyards 1971

Château Haut-Brion 1971

I’m not sure what all this means except that the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello will leap in value in the auction and rare wine market. I do have one comment however that deserves consideration. Here we have five California wines, all over 30 years old that apparently tasted pretty darn good. I wonder  what their alcohol content was? Certainly not 14.7%. More likely they are in the 12.5% range. I wonder if there are any winemakers out there who want to make a wine for the ages and I wonder what this tasting might say to them.

5 Responses

  1. medmusings - May 24, 2006

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  2. bob gustafson - May 25, 2006

    Tom, I know it is just an oversight on your part, but I don’t know how the folks at Ridge will take to your calling their Momtebello Cab a Napa wine.

  3. Terry Hughes - May 26, 2006

    Your last sentence speaks volumes about the “progress” that California wines have made over all these years. How in the hell did so many winemakers lose their way after such a promising rebirth out of the mess of Prohibition?

  4. GH - May 28, 2006

    Tom – I was at the MKF dinner in Napa the night before the event in which al the whites were tasted. It would have been a blow out if the wines had been tasted blind against each other. The Burgs were FAR better with substantial acidity and earth. The Roulot was particularly impressive. The CA wines (and it’s a stretch to call them wine) were embarrassing – NO acid, port like and dominated by oak. Its sad that these wines consistently receive such high praise and high value.

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