The Judgment of Paris: A Napa Valley Wine Tasting Guide

  • Guides
  • by WINECOUNTRY COLLECTIVE
  • on NOVEMBER 16, 2023
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Picture this: the year is 1976 in Paris, and Steven Spurrier, a Paris-based, British fine wine merchant, sets the stage for an unprecedented wine showdown. It’s a face-off that would pit the Old World against the New, with a line-up of France’s vinous aristocracy expected to reign supreme. But on May 24, in a blind tasting that would send ripples through the wine world, a panel of French connoisseurs unwittingly crown California wines as the victors in both the white and red categories. The “Judgment of Paris” was a vinicultural twist of fate that would forever alter the wine landscape, catapulting Napa Valley to stardom. Nearly 50 years later, the effects of this legendary competition are still present in Napa Valley, ready to be tasted at these storied wineries.

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Wineries / Napa

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, founded in 1970, quickly gained acclaim when its SLV Cab won the red wine competition at the Paris tasting. Today, visitors continue to flock to this beautiful tasting room to try the renowned estate Cabernet Sauvignon while enjoying the sweeping views of the winery’s vineyards and the region’s signature rock palisades through the wall-to-ceiling glass windows.

Insider Tip

Be sure to try the incredible Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Image courtesy of Stag’s Leap

Details Visit Website
2
Wineries / St Helena

Heitz Cellar

Heitz Cellar gained acclaim for its 1970 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon entry at the tasting in Paris. Today, Heitz continues to be known for its premium single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and laid-back, friendly wine tastings, which are held in the small tasting room in the rustic stone farmhouse-style winery, situated on the estate’s eight-acre St. Helena vineyard.

Insider Tip
Guests may opt to pair their experience with artisan cheese and charcuterie for an additional $25 per person.

Insider Tip

Heitz is one of the few Napa Valley wineries to offer a complimentary tasting.

Image courtesy of Heitz Cellar

Details Visit Website
3
Wineries / Napa

Clos Du Val Winery

Since the Paris tasting, Clos du Val has continued to garner acclaim for its award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon. Visitors flock to this winery to experience the legacy in the large, ivy-covered tasting room with vineyard views. A traditional stand-up tasting bar experience is offered, as well as private tours and library tastings. The experience is relaxed and down-to-earth, so consider an outdoor tasting with views of the olive trees and the 150-acre estate vineyard. Ask about the Petite Verdot and Zinfandel, as well–they’re exceptional.

Insider Tip

You can arrange a picnic, but book a table in advance. Reservations are required due to limited space.

Image courtesy of Clos Du Val

Details
4
Wineries / Napa

Mayacamas Vineyards

Historic Mayacamas Vineyards was built in 1889 and has become well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon over the years (their 1971 Cab was entered into the competition in Paris). Taste the latest vintage while visiting the estate’s beautiful stone winery, high on Mount Veeder. Note that tastings are available daily at the estate; starting at $125 a person, the experience is intimate and reminiscent of Old World Europe. You can also pay a visit to their downtown Napa location, open Wednesday through Sunday, where tastings start at just $35 a person.

Insider Tip

Mayacamas Vineyards is off the beaten path, so be prepared for the long, bumpy drive up Mount Veeder on a dirt road—but the views will be well worth the trek.

Image courtesy of Mayacamas

Details
5
Wineries / St Helena

Freemark Abbey Winery

This winery has changed hands and names over the years, but today is known as Freemark Abbey. The winery was represented by both their 1972 Chardonnay and by their 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon at the Judgment of Paris; today, visitors can taste Freemark’s Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon by the fireplace in the cozy tasting room, or while relaxing on the lounge furniture on the shaded patio.

Insider Tip

Ask about the Bootleg Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the wines available exclusively at the winery.

Image courtesy of Freemark Abbey

Details
6
Wineries / St Helena

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Spring Mountain Vineyard is a picturesque property with a rich history. The estate was founded when owner, Jacqui Safra, purchased and combined three different wineries—La Perla, Chevalier, & Miravalle—on the mountain in 1992. The property includes several buildings from the late 1800s, including the La Perla Winery and Villa Miravalle, where tastings are hosted in the latter’s elegant, chandeliered tasting room. Spring Mountain Vineyard received recognition for its entry at the Paris tasting—their 1973 Chardonnay placed 4th. Note that tastings are held by appointment only.

Insider Tip

For an even more elevated experience, request the vertical tasting experience: a seated tasting of five Cabernet Sauvignons, including one from 2006 or earlier.

Details
7
Wineries / Calistoga

Chateau Montelena Winery

A visit to Chateau Montelena allows a glimpse into Napa Valley history: the winery is known for winning the white wine competition at the Judgment of Paris with their 1973 Chardonnay. Housed in a French-style, ivy-covered chateau built in 1882, the estate boasts gorgeous grounds, and the winery continues to produce estate wines today.

Insider Tip

Request a pamphlet for the self-guided tour of the grounds to learn more about this historic winery.

Image courtesy of Chateau Montelena

Details

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