May 24, 1976, changed the wine world forever. Before then, France and its wines, paragons of Old World winemaking, had dominated the industry and sommeliers’ dreams—until a publicity stunt turned everything on its head.
To drum up business for their Parisian wine shop, merchants Patricia Gallagher (an American) and Steven Spurrier (a Brit) put together a blind tasting event in Paris that pitted established French wines against Northern California’s up-and-comers. Chardonnays from Burgundy and California (mostly Napa Valley) went head to head, as did Bordeaux and California cabernet sauvignons. A panel of nine French wine experts did a blind tasting of both the whites and reds; Spurrier and Gallagher tasted as judges but their scores wouldn’t count toward the final tally. Expectations were so low for the California wines that only one journalist, an American named George Taber, attended the event to report on it for Time.
The results were shocking—not only did Napa Valley wines win in both categories, but the whites took three of the top four spots in the category. The blind tasting, nicknamed “The Judgment of Paris,” legitimized California wine and gave other growing regions throughout the world hope that they could take on the big dogs.
More than 40 years later, Napa-based luxury concierge Cultured Vine is hosting a modern reinterpretation of the 1976 event. The Judgment of Napa will take place May 15–16, 2020, and the exclusive two-day event will reunite some of the key players from the original tasting that put Napa Valley on the map, including Steven Spurrier and George Taber. The tasting will take place at Clos Du Val, one of the original wineries included among the 1976 competitors.
To experience the weekend, three types of tickets are now available, ranging from $1,500 to $15,000. VIP Elite Judge ($15,000) and Premier Judge ($10,000) tickets earn guests a literal seat at the table in the Judgment of Napa blind tasting event with Spurrier, Taber, and other special guests on Saturday afternoon. They’ll sip a global selection of some of the world’s most coveted wines and serve as seated judges themselves for the competition; among the perks for VIP and premier tickets are five-star lodging at Meadowood and an exclusive judges-only dinner at a secret location.
Premier ticket holders ($1,500) become part of the viewing audience for the tasting, and score a welcome reception and an intimate dinner at a Napa Valley estate, too.
Limited tickets are available now at Cultured Vine; prices will increase at the end of February.