.Sonoma County Winemakers Plan Redo of 1976 ‘Judgement of Paris’ Wine Tasting

Napa Valley winemaking legend Warren Winiarski died a week ago at age 95. He was one of two local winemakers who famously shocked France’s snootiest wine critics and forced our region onto the world map of prestige at the 1976 “Judgement of Paris” wine tasting, when their Cab Sauv and Chardonnay, respectively, emerged victorious in a blind taste test. “Not bad for kids from the sticks,” his fellow Napa winner, Jim Barrett from Chateau Montelena, famously told Time Magazine. It’s now the stuff of wine-country lore — a “shocking David-over-Goliath triumph that gave the fledgling California wine business a swift dose of international credibility,” in the words of the New York Times. That fateful moment has inspired books, documentaries, historical exhibits, countless PR campaigns and a lingering smugness in our subtle ego war against the French. And now, on the advent of Winiarksi’s passing, here we are all talking about it some more. Many are also talking about the man he became in the decades following his accidental slip into celebrity. “Winiarski, who founded Stag’s Leap Cellars with his late wife Barbara in 1973, poured some of his focus in later years into philanthropy, conservation, preparing vintners for climate change, and into preserving food and wine history,” KRCB news radio reports. Which brings us to a serendipitously timed announcement last month from Sonoma County winemaker Patrick Cappiello of Monte Rio Cellars, who has amassed an Instagram following of nearly 40,000 for his outspoken rants on the difficulties facing modern U.S. winemakers. Cappiello announced that he and a winemaker friend of his from Pax Cellars in Sebastopol will be attempting to stage a second coming this summer of the “Judgement of Paris” tasting. They’re calling it “The 1976 Redo.” And instead of just comparing Sonoma and Napa county wines to the best stuff from France, they’ll be blind-tasting wines from all across California and the rest of America — perhaps exposing some unexpected new underdogs from different U.S. winemaking regions, just like happened back in 1976. The Press Democrat explains: “Judging for The Redo will take place in stages, with a West Coast panel assessing the American wines and an East Coast panel judging the French wines. West Coast judges include winemaker Rajat Parr of Phelan Farms, winemaker Megan Glaab of Ryme Cellars in Forestville, Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy, winemaker Steve Matthiasson, sommelier Cara Patricia, wine writer Randy Caparoso, sommelier Alexandria Sarovich and sommelier Mike Zima of SommPicks. (The East Coast panel is still being finalized.) Tasted blind in each round, the American wines will be whittled down to 30 semifinalists, with five selected to go head-to-head with the best French wines. The five finalists from each country will be blindly assessed by a new panel of judges, with no knowledge of the wines’ country of origin.” Kind of exciting, right? Event organizers say on their website: “Forty-eight years after the pivotal Judgment of Paris wine tasting put American wines (and Napa in particular) on the map, we’re gearing up for a renewed showdown with our legendary French rivals to showcase the new generation of American winemaking.” Wineries have about one week left to enter the contest. There will be four categories — Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, Chardonnays and Chenin Blancs — and only vintages from the years 2020-23 will be accepted. Let the ego wars begin… (Source: KRCB & New York Times & Press Democrat & Patrick Cappiello via Instagram & The 1976 Redo)

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