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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cape Cod B&B and Great California Wine

Charlie’s weekly wine-ings

Recently I was at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants, looking for new cabernets to serve to guest at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, when a restaurateur friend called looking for 6 bottles of the 2005 Stag Leap Wine Cellars Artemis for a special wedding dinner request. Cellar 55 did not have it in stock, but I thought I had some in my personal cellar back at the Inn. Unfortunately I only had one bottle left in my stash, but I started thinking about this great Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2005 Stag Leap Wine Cellars Artemis is a great bottle that comes from a great heritage. The Artemis bottle’s label bares the signature of Warren Winiarski, Proprietor. He made this 2005 vintage and, thirty-two years ago, the 1973 vintage that made California wines accepted internationally. In 1976 Winiarski’s wine beat what was, at that time, the most famous French reds at the now infamous 1976 Paris blind tasting. I blog weekly about tastings I attend, but this was the ‘mother’ of all tastings. 

Until that moment in 1976, no one in the wine world considered California and French wines in the same league. Wine snobs and the general wine buying public accepted on faith that all French wines were superior to any California wines, or wines from anywhere else in the world. That year in Paris, an entrepreneurial small wine shop owner, Steven Spurrier, organized a blind tasting of French and California wines in hopes of generating interest in his wine shop. The event included renowned French judges, but garnered no press coverage except for a bored Time magazine's European correspondent, George Taber, who accidentally attended. 

Time magazine’s small story about the results shook the wine world. Taber’s recollections of the tasting are covered in his 2005 book, the Judgment of Paris, released on the eve of the 30th anniversary of this earth-shaking event. The 2008 movie, Bottle Shock, loosely based on the book, humorously recounts the famous tasting. I recommend the movie for a quick and fun introduction to the event, but if you seriously want to understand the history of California wine and the importance of this event, you must read the book. 

Spurrier explaining to judges how French wines are going to kick America's ass.
The tastings results, as presented in both the book and movie, were that this very sophisticated and respected panel of French judges selected California wines number one in both the red and white categories. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay topped all the whites, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon topped all the reds. George Tabor’s Time magazine article spread the word of the shocking victory and established the California wine industry as a world player. The indisputable quality of California wine set the stage for the explosion of sales that secured the future of the United States wine industry. 

I look forward to tasting my last 2005 Artemis from this great heritage, but need to keep looking for more readily available Cabernets to share with our guest this fall.
Happy wine-ing,

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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