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Vive La Judgement Of Paris !

During the late 1700's the term "Vive La France" became a rallying cry at the storming of the Bastille and subsequently the start of the historic French revolution. Roughly translated the phrase means "long live France" or "hurray for France". However you translate it, you will seldom hear it without emotion or a sense of patriotism.

Perhaps not nearly as well known as the storming of the Bastille, another significant event occurred in French and global wine history and it is known simply as the Judgement of Paris. If you are not familiar with this important piece of wine history you are not alone. Truth be told, were it not for my wife forcing me to sit down one night and watch the movie Bottle Shock, I too would be among those unfamiliar with this historic turning point in the global wine world.

Often referred to as The Judgement of Paris of 1976, the event is simply a wine tasting that featured French wines versus American wines...on the surface. When in all actuality it was the most dynamic clash of David versus Goliath that the wine world had ever witnessed to that day. It was born from the efforts of a man named Steven Spurrier and his partner Patricia Gastaud-Gallagher who both organized the event.

Both of these individuals were convinced of the superiority of French wines and the global market was evidence. Highly sought after and the result of centuries of wine making prowess even today they are among the most treasured and coveted possessions in any wine cellar.

California wine, on the other hand, was not nearly as highly regarded at that time as it is today. When it was eventually shockingly chosen as the winner in both red and white categories it was literally "the shot heard around the world" in the wine industry.

Obviously your next question is likely "Why did I go to the effort to commemorate the event?" I have multiple reasons that make it an event to commemorate especially as someone who is passionate about wine.

For example, the Judgement of Paris is credited with not only putting California wine on the global forefront but it also is given a significant amount of credit for making Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon the flagship grapes of California. As proof, the amount of these varietals grown in California after the tasting increased by 400%

In addition, California's victory literally inspired the world. Their success inspired winemakers around the globe to produce wine including New Zealand, Australia, Chile and South Africa.

Also, the blind tasting known as The Judgement of Paris is credited with spawning a plethora of other famous wine tastings to follow most notably that of the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine and Spirit Competitions.

As if those accolades were not enough, I had yet another motive that to many may seem quite unrealistic and even a bit far fetched.

I am convinced that my own beloved North Carolina Wine industry is a "judgement of Paris" moment away from the same acclaim that is awarded other notable grape growing areas of the country including the Finger Lakes, Willamette Oregon and even the prestigious Napa and Sonoma regions of California.

I am sure many will disagree and consider my comments biased; they would have a valid argument knowing my passion for NC wine. However, being in this position for over five years has afforded me the opportunity to consistently sample the BEST this state has to offer and it is these many instances that have fueled my belief in NC wine and it's future..

Finally, the execution of this dinner required a comrade and would have been virtually impossible and unaffordable to recreate on my own. It was a perfect opportunity to embark on my very first official collaboration with my dear friend Dave Nershi, the editor of Vino Sphere We have often mused about doing something together and this collaboration was tailor made for us since all the wines came exclusively from our personal wine cellars.

After comparing the inventory in both of our cellars we came up with what we considered a stellar lineup as did all of those that participated in the event.

And as for the food, each course of the meal was created by one of the couples in attendance; a trick I had picked up from Dave and Kathy (Nershi) after being fortunate to attend several dinners they hosted using the same format.

So, let's take a look at the sumptuous meal that we enjoyed and the amazing wines poured at each course.

When executing a dinner of this complexity and magnitude it is always welcome to be able to delegate each course to another person and thus allow me to concentrate on the wine. Have I ever done meals where I was responsible for the wine AND food? Absolutely, and that is the main reason i prefer to delegate and distribute this responsibility. Fortunately, I was well aware of the culinary expertise and prowess of my guests beforehand.

Initially our guests were greeted with both a French and American sparkling wine; an excellent way to start the festivities. For the French sparkling, we choose NV Bourgeois-Boulonnais Champagne Premier Cru Tradition Brut, a delightful sparkling wine from the Champagne Premier Cru region in France made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

For the American sparkling we choose the timeless Korbel California Champagne whose history is only as noteworthy as the many presidential inaugurations at which it was poured. Two outstanding examples of traditional method "methode champenoise" to begin our lavish dinner.

And then we did double sabrage!

I take full credit for coming up with this over the top demonstration to get the festivities officially underway and I give my friend Dave Nershi full credit for being an excellent teacher and instructing me on the intricacies of sabrage. This was a sight to behold and savor, if you don't believe me go to my YouTube video and check it out for yourself:

My dear friends Sanjay and Michele provided the first courses and Sanjay's culture, heritage and ethnic cuisine were on full display with three exceptional dishes. Prior to the meal we agreed to pass two of them while we sipped sparkling and mingled while the other was plated serving as the first course of our sit down meal.

Our first plated appetizer was the Gobi Manchurian and it was an excellent segway into the meal, light flavorful deep fried marinated fried cauliflower florets, onions, chili, and soy sauce that matched perfectly with the next wines and featured pairing for the course. Our wines for this course were a French offering Château Paradis La Grande Terre Côteaux Aix en Provence Rosé 2023 (which Dave and i love so much we buy it by the magnum) and our American wine was a Curran 2022 Grenache Gris from Santa Barbera CA.

After the appetizer we enjoyed a delicious French themed salad created by my guests Tony and Amy. The salad "La Salade Mentonnaise" was a harmonious medley of fennel, orange, and artichokes with pine nuts, lemon zest, and a bright acidic orange vinaigrette. Menton is known as the "lemon capital of the world" and this salad is very popular on the French Riviera. It paired nicely with the white wines we selected.

For the French white wine for this course we choose the 2020 Domaine Chante Cigale Châteauneuf-du- Pape Blanc, "chante cigale" means singing cicada and this Rhone based blend that is ageable actually took my mind off the symphony of cicadas singing in my back yard for weeks. The complexity of this wine was off the charts. For the American wine we went with the "mack daddy" that stunned the world and won the Judgement of Paris - Chateau Montelena 2021 Chardonnay

Next came what I considered to be "the star of the show" as is often the main course/entrée. The wines for this course were among the oldest and most refined and they called for a dish that matched their weight and complexity. I know full well the pressure of crafting a dish under these circumstances (thanks to the Nershis and the 100 point Lineage) and I knew they would "hit it out of the park". Their Petite Steak Bites with Béarnaise Sauce, baked polenta & roasted asparagus was sheer perfection and an excellent complement to the wines we served for this course.

This was our first and only course paired with a red wine and for the French offering we choose was Chateau Beau-Site Saint Estephe 2016 Bordeaux. I knew I was in for a treat when I heard one of my dinner guests let out a long satisfying sigh of approval after just one sip. This wine was special with a depth and complexity that has come to be expected from Bordeaux wines of this age. Our American wine was no slouch with the 2015 Pursuit Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California showcasing why Cabernet Sauvignon is king in California.

I can assure you that with the aforementioned star studded courses as predecessors I was feeling immense pressure (as the person assigned dessert) to end the meal on a high note. With all the food we consumed the last thing you wanted was something heavy and filling. However, I also wanted something aesthetic and visually stimulating and my Grilled Fruit Kabob Medley in Chantilly Cream was a perfect ending to the meal with minimal effort and maximum flavor.

For the wines at the conclusion of the meal my co host Dave and I decided to not offer French/American offerings at this course opting instead to conclude the meal with the amazing 2019 Paxxito from Barboursville Vineyards located in neighboring Virginia.

This blend of 50 % Moscato Ottonel and 50% Vidal Blanc has an amazing flavor and bouquet. I have been a loyal fan of this elixir ever since first being introduced to it by my dear friends Drew and Amy Buchannan. Crafted in the ancient passito method it can not be described - only experienced.

I will remember this meal on so many levels; from my first double sabrage to my first dinner in ages to remembering an event that I only recently heard of but nevertheless is a turning point in global wine history. It was also my first official collaboration with my friend Dave and a stunning success.

North Carolina wine is a "judgement of Paris" moment from gaining the recognition and respect that many other notable wine regions around the world can boast. Just remember you heard it here first...Vive La Judgement Of Paris !

Vive La North Carolina wine!

24 views4 comments


Natalie Hampton
Natalie Hampton
Jun 01

Arthur -- You sure know how to celebrate! Thanks for commemorating this important event for North American wines. Here's an interesting article about the role that Napa's Trefethen Winery played in the 1976 Judgment of Paris -- enjoy!

Jun 01
Replying to

Natalie, thanks for the article, Dave had enlightened us on the subsequent events after the first tasting and how wines like Trefethen continued the success started by the likes of Stags Leap and Chateau Montelena, thanks for sharing this excellent read and reading my blog


David Nershi
David Nershi
Jun 01

Arthur, good friend, what a pleasure to be involved with this superb dinner and wine event. The experience was off the charts! The sumptuous dishes carefully paired with French and American wines went the original Judgment of Paris one step better: they merely had a wine tasting -- we had a wine dinner! From the opening double sabrage to the final drops of the delicious Paxxito dessert wine, this was an evening to remember.

Can't wait until our next collaboration!

Jun 01
Replying to

Dave i could not have done it without you, your resources, instruction and friendship have made a difference in my life, I see a dueling somm vs csw collaboration in our future 😀

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