And so it begins, this yearly harvest ritual of picking grapes, clipping them from the vine, rushing them to the winery and letting the magic begin.
When I see crews in the vineyards, what I see are workers traipsing through prime real estate. Yes, Monopoly’s Boardwalk and Park Place because I know that the grapes groomed here rival the best of France.
If you’re not mindful of that, take this 5 minute crash course in history to remember the day – May 24, 1976 – when the world discovered California wine.
It all began with British wine merchant Stephen Spurrier, who had a taste for California wine but had a difficult time convincing his English and European customers. Spurrier hit on the idea of staging a blind tasting of California and French wines, using the nine greatest palates of France. It was unheard of. California had beaten French wines in past tastings, but the judges were always American, and what did they know?
The French judges were aware that they were sampling both French and American wines, though the bottles were masked. As the tasting progressed, the tasters began pointing out the wines they believed were from California, and their comments about them grew increasingly patronizing.
When the sacks were removed from the bottles, however, the judges were mortified: The wines they thought were classic Bordeaux or Burgundy were in reality from California. Six of the 11 highest-rated wines were, in fact, from California—almost entirely from Napa. The 1973 Stag’s Leap cabernet beat 1970 vintages of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Haut-Brion, and a 1973 Chateau Montelena bested Burgundy’s finest whites.
France contested the findings, of course, but it was too late. California, particularly Napa, had earned its place on the international wine map.
Prime real estate? You bet.