On May 24, 1976, a selection of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from California were put up for comparison against their well-established French counterparts. The expectation was that the French wines would easily win the competition. The sensation when California’s offerings won the competition – see the movie Bottle Shock – sent shockwaves throughout the wine industry. The Winning US wines were Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
The WSET Judgement of Knoxville was not a recreation of the 1976 event, but a tribute to celebrate a great moment in American wine, to promote the WSET global view of wine enjoyment and to test the culinary and wine tasting skills of the 50 knowledgeable guests. 2023 is the 47th anniversary of that infamous Paris tasting and the 50th anniversary of the winning US wine vintage. To commemorate this, the Wine Society of East Tennessee in conjunction with our members Northshore Wine and Spirits and The Club at Gettysvue conducted a blind tasting and scoring of California and French chardonnay and cabernet wines. The event also included both US and French inspired food. Four competing wines were judged on a scale of 20 points each like 1976. At the end of the event, the wines were revealed and the winners recognized.
Cabernet Results – Essentially a tie!
Stags’ Leap Cabernet 2020. $59.00, Napa Valley. This 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and vibrant with layers of bright red berry fruits, alongside a floral potpourri. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was founded in 1970 and is known for the 1973 Cabernet that won the award in Paris. The Stags’ Leap Winery has an even older history. Originally established in 1872. It is also well-known for excellent wines. Stag’s Leap and Stags’ Leap are both in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. They are 2.7 miles apart.
Château Les Granges Bordeaux 2020, $14.99. The wine is young and with its spice and juicy acidity, is developing quickly. Acidity and black currant fruits are already showing strongly against the wine’s light texture. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was scored only 1 point lower than the Stags’ Leap cab.
Chardonnay and American Champagne Results – USA Win!
Korbel Natural Champagne 2018 – Sparkling – $17.99. This is an opener and not part of the blind tasting. It is our peace offering between France and the US as is it a California Champagne! Made primarily from Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, this stainless-steel fermented sparkler is rich and fruity. Apple, cherry and peach combine for a rich wine. Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, US. Scored higher than either Chardonnay.
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2019. $60.00. Napa Valley, California. Bright gold in color and incredibly aromatic, the ripeness of the vintage is most pronounced initially; melon, perfume, and orange blossom slowly give way to fresh peach, honeysuckle and apricot. There’s very little overt oak influence on the nose, although it comes across subtly in the background as pie crust and toast.
Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2021. $20.99. From Maconnais, Burgundy, France. Produced in the Mâconnais region of Burgundy, Mâcon-Villages is vinified with no oak contact to retain the elegant aromas and clean, fresh character that this region is prized for. The vineyard soils have a high percentage of chalk and limestone which impart nuanced minerality. The score difference suggested a judge preference for oak.
Northshore Wine and Spirits
Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30 PM
Korbel Natural Champagne 2018
Pimento Cheese Croquette
Arugula salad with pineapple, mango, peach vinaigrette
White Wine 1 for Tasting and Score – Louis Jadot Macon-Villages, 2021
Seared Scallop with jasmine, apple
White Wine 2 for Tasting and Score – Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2019
Braised wagyu beef short ribs, pomme puree, wilted spinach, Hazelnut mole
Red Wine 1 for Tasting and Score – Stags’ Leap Cabernet 2020
Dark chocolate cake with Oregon cherry ice cream
Red Wine 2 for Tasting and Score – Château Les Granges Bordeaux 2020
|Wine Name ( Revealed after scoring)||Total Score|
|Stags’ Leap Cabernet 2020||742|
|Château Les Granges Bordeaux 2020||741|
|Korbel Natural Champagne 2018||683|
|Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2019||673|
|Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay, 2021||628|