A panel of French judges unwittingly picked California wines as the victors, transforming the global winescape forever.

Ron Dick, a grower in Alexander Valley, is intent on claiming his family’s part in the historic upset. His father – Henry Dick – supplied 20 tons of chardonnay grapes for the winning white – the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay. These grapes were groomed at Dick’s Belle Terre Ranch.

“I think it’s important that even though the award-winning white was made in Napa Valley, about 85 percent of its grapes came from Sonoma County,” Dick explained.

In addition to grapes from the Belle Terre Ranch, the Bacigalupi family also contributed chardonnay, among other Sonoma County growers, Dick said.

The 40th anniversary, Dick said, reminds him of driving over the hills in Sonoma County to deliver the grapes to Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena.

“Most of all I remember the wonderful experience of working with and learning from a fine gentleman and fine winemaker, Mike Grgich.”

Dick said his father and Grgich formed an immediate bond.

“My dad was an immigrant from France and Mike was an immigrant from Croatia,” Dick said. “They were both thankful for the opportunities the United States had given them.”

As the 1973 growing season began, “Mike came out often, and we walked the vineyard and talked about things to do, from dusting with sulfur to irrigating … As it got closer to harvest, Mike came out more often, to see, squeeze, smell and taste the grapes. And he took them back to the lab for testing.”

Dick said he still treasures his copy of “Judgment of Paris – with this passage scrawled in the book by author George Taber: “Ron, you helped make history happen. Thanks.”

With the on-going celebrations in full swing, it’s important to remember Sonoma County’s role on that monumental day. We can’t forget to celebrate the people behind the winning white on this side of the Mayacamas – people like the Bacigalupi family of the Russian River Valley and the Dicks of the Alexander Valley.

The winning white was bottled, after all, with their prized grapes.