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on September 23, 2005
Centered on a small, poorly attended (only one journalist present) wine tasting event in 1976-the famous Paris tasting organized by the English bon vivant and Paris wine retailer/writer Steven Spurrier-George Taber tells the whole story first-hand (he was the journalist present!). In the process of giving all the details of the wines, the jurors, and the scores, the book actually covers the universe of contemporary wine issues, from the winemakers, both French and Californian, to the issues of wine economics and globalization.

Taber begins the story with fascinating mini-biographies of the winemakers and winery owners (such as Mike Grgich, Warren Winiarski, and Jim Barrett), discusses the trials and tribulations of making their first wines, outlines each of the competition wines (California and French) in interesting detail and context, then, after describing the competition itself, follows the discussion with the chronology of the press and public reaction from the U.S. and abroad (mostly French-they were pissed).

Positing the shattering of French wine hegemony by this `momentous' wine event, he then points the reader to the subsequent enabling of the `Globalisation of Wine', and in the remainder of the book, takes a number of diversions that relate to this hotly discussed topic, including a chapter on six recent International Wine Stars, and others that give a (relatively) non-judgemental perspective on contemporary wine trends, wine economics, wine styles, and more wine personalities.

Very enjoyable and well written, it's a must read for the wine enthusiast, and for anyone interested in a succinct summary of many (non-technical) contemporary wine issues.
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This is an exceptional book. George Taber was the only journalist at the famous 1976 Paris tasting and the person best positioned to tell its story. The story, however, is a fairly simple and straightforward one. Man arranges tasting of French and California wines; California wines win; the French are aghast. This was a small event with huge repercussions. Hence, Taber spends the bulk of the book detailing the background which led to the event and the results that followed it. In doing so he gives a panoramic, if selective, account of current practices in the French and new world wine industries and--in the strongest sections of the book--tells the personal stories of the individuals whose lives were intertwined with the event. With the latter he is providing, in effect, a history of several of the key players in the Napa wine industry: Andre Tchelistcheff, Mike Grgich, Warren Winiarski (my all-time favorite academic), Robert Mondavi, et al.

Like all compelling stories this is a very personal one, the events all turning on individual experiences and individual decisions. Hence there is a beautiful 'reality' about it, a reality that continues today. When you visit some of these individuals' wineries you are still likely to see them there, behind their desks or in their cellars, doing their thing. They changed the world of wine and this is a crucial part of their story.
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on October 20, 2005
I found this a highly entertaining account of the growth of the California wine industry from the early 60's through the 90's. Taber writes in a breezy fashion without to much technical jargon. There are actually only about two chapters on the big tasteoff. Half the book is a prequel to how the featured winemakers arrived in wine country. Nice close about globalization that was fairly interesting. It just makes me want to buy wine only from independent producers.
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on November 22, 2005
About the same time when the computer disk drive was being invented in the prune orchard valley south of San Jose, giving birth to an immense new industry that would bring untold wealth to Californians, less than one hundred miles north, among the vineyards of Napa Valley that were abandoned during Prohibition, another high technology was being born. Wine making. Unlike innovation in computer industry, where nothing existed before, wine industry was some 4000 years old and an unlikely place for new ideas.

Yet, into this environment entered several young men with improbable Slavic names: Dimitri Tchelistcheff, Warren Winiarski, and Miljenko Grgich, and with even less probable winemaking expertise. While Silicon Valley, without any established competition was creating products with ease by thinking "out of the box", the vintners of Napa Valley, by thinking "out of the barrel" produced some fabulous wines. The secret eventually reached a wine merchant in Paris who organized a blind wine tasting of 12 best California wines and 8 best French wines. The only reporter attending was from TIME magazine, George Taber. At a risk of giving away the punch line, after the smoke has cleared in Paris ... the best red was made by Winiarski and the best white by Grgich.

Everyone who visits Napa Valley, once or often, should read this book. It reads like a novel, yet it effortlessly teaches you enough to start your own vineyard and make your own wine.
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on March 29, 2008
This book is a flat out excellent page turner as it goes through the general histories of the regions and winemakers involved, the competition in Paris, and the aftermath of the `surprising' wins by the California wines. Highly recommended.

Then Taber spends the last 20% of his book looking at a few wineries in a few wine regions around the world, and an update on the French and Napa regions since the competition in 1976. This all seems like incongruous useless filler to get the book from 240 pages to 300.

Five stars for the first 80%, none for the last 20%.
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on December 29, 2005
Just joking. This is a nice example of taking a here-to-fore (at least in mainstream culture) "event" and telling a compelling tale that is accessible to those of us who aren't oenophiles. Taber's book puts the pieces together in the first 150 or so pages of how the "revolution" that occurred in winemaking in the Napa Valley occurred in the 60s and early 70s. He introduces us to various key players, giving us just enough back story to get a sense of who they were (are) while keeping in mind the larger picture of how these people worked together and created great wine.

Ironically, the actual Paris tasting is dispensed with in what didn't seem to be more than about 15 pages (excluding background information, 1 page or so each, on each wine). Taber than pastes on what seems to be filler about the globalization of wine before doubling back to give the reader a "where are they now" ending. The book would actually be a better read at about 250 pages than the 310 or so that it is, but that is a very minor criticism viz a viz what is a very enjoyable read.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2006
The actual Judgment of Paris - the blind tasting between California and French wines in Paris in 1976 - only occupies a few pages of this book. The first part is a fascinating story of the history of wine in California, and the history of how the wineries, and their wines, that were in the tasting came to be. The second part covers the fallout from the Judgment of Paris, and how it, in many ways, led to the global surge in production of fine wine.

The Judgment of Paris shook French winemakers out of their complacency, as they themselves said toward the end of the book. A subtext that perhaps even the author may not have noticed was that the leading California winemakers did the same thing for California wines. The victors were not from Northern California - the owner and winemaker from Stags Leap was from Chicago, and Chateau Montelena was acquired by two Angelenos who hired a Croatian winemaker. The wine business of Napa and Sonoma was stuck in complacency of its own, focusing on low-quality jug wine to the extent that grapes were even grown at all. It took outsiders from the Midwest and Southern California to kickstart the wine industry in Northern California into its present state.

If you are at all interested in wine, this is an interesting and very approachable book.
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on February 2, 2007
I love California wines. As a Californian I am very proud of my home states history and heritage as the world's premier producer of fine wines. However, it has not always been so. Until quite recently, California wines were not reveared in such an august way. What happened? How did this change in world opinion occur? I have been curious about this mysterious evolution in Californaia wines for quite some time and after a friend suggested Judgment of Paris to me I began to hope that it would be all I had wished for. I was not disappointed. Obviously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history and loves premium wine, especially wines produced in California.

The Judgment of Paris is such a tremendous book on many levels. It is full of tender and engaging stories about real people who, against all odds, helped establish California wines amongst the best in the world, culminating with their personal involvement in the now famous 1976 Paris wine tasting competition: The seminal event that turned the world of wine on it's collective head.

This book is also a fabulous review of premier wine making history, not only in California, but worldwide. If your knowledge of wines and wine making is limited or non-existent, you will feel like quite the connoisseur by the time you are finished reading. This is a really fun and informative book. Very well researched and extremely well written.

Cheers! to George Tabor for crafting such a wonderful `book-quet'. ;-)
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on February 16, 2016
Very well written and very informative not only on the Judgement but also about the process of winemaking. I just started reading it after having come from Napa for the weekend and visiting Stag's Leap, Grgich Hills, Mondavi and others. If you're planning a trip to the area, do yourself a favor and read this book beforehand. You'll go to Napa with your eyes wide open. You'll also probably quit your job, buy a house in Napa and start dabbling in the wine business. This book could cost you millions! OK, kidding. Kind of. Great book.
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on September 1, 2015
See the movie "Bottle Shock?" That was from this book, but only a very small portion of it. After reading the book, I see that the movie took more than a few liberties, but I don't love it any less. Bill Pullman? Alan Rickman? C'mon....what's not to love? Back to the book, which is a wonderful account of the history of California wine from the Franciscan priest who made wine out of necessity, for without, there was none for mass, to the present day excess of riches. If you love wine, you have to read this. You have to. I insist.
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