Last night I went to the longest and most expensive retail wine tasting of my life (5 hours and $250 respectively): Co-op Wine and Spirits’ modern day re-enactment of the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, the event that first put California and Napa Valley on the world’s vinous radar screen. The original Judgment of Paris was a promotional stunt organized by Steve Spurrier, the owner of a well-known Paris wine shop, pitting top French reds from Bordeaux and whites from Burgundy against Napa Cabernets and Chardonnays. While today that might seem like an alcoholic battle of the titans, 35 years ago California wine had basically no international presence or prestige, and it certainly was not viewed as a wine region whose products could stand up to the aristocracy of France’s top names. As a result, especially because 9 of the 11 hand-selected judges at the tasting were French (and a 10th, Steve Spurrier himself, was British), the J of P was expected to be an Old World massacre. 10 reds and 10 whites (6 US/4 French, for some reason) were poured blind and the judges rated and ranked them without knowing which wine belonged to which producer/country. When the scores were tallied, France’s divine right to make the best wine in the world was shattered as California took top prize in both the red (Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet) and white (Chateau Montelena Chardonnay) categories. One reporter covered the tasting and wrote up the shocking upset in Time Magazine; less than half a century later, out of these humble beginnings, Napa Valley is one of the most famous, critically acclaimed and expensive wine regions on Earth.