No disrespect to our celebration of the Fourth of July, our nation’s Independence Day, but as we enjoy our July 4th outdoor grilling rituals, let’s take a moment to also remember America’s WINE Independence Day, May 24, 1976!
How fitting that American Wine Independence Day was the same year as we celebrated the 200th year of our nation’s independence. Oh, you are wondering why I am hailing May 24, 1976 as Wine Independence Day? That is the day that American wines declared freedom from being considered second rate to their European cousins. That’s right, May 24, 1976, referred to as The Judgment of Paris, is the most important day for the American wine industry; the day that American wines defeated what many considered (and in truth still do consider) the gold standard of wine…French wine.
The Judgment of Paris literally vaulted American Wines to the world stage and showed the world that American wines were truly world class. As they say…the rest is history. On that day, in two blind tastings held in Paris, American Chardonnay was evaluated against French white Burgundy (to that point considered the best Chardonnays in the world) and American Cabernet evaluated against the best red Bordeaux (again, then considered the best Cabernet based wines in the world). The winners: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet!! BTW, there is a great movie about Chateau Montelena winning this award called Bottle Shock. Check it out!
Remember the Other Independence Day: May 24, 19761/2 Remember the Other Independence Day: May 24, 19762/2
Since that time, the American Wine industry really took off and America was (and still is) on its way to becoming a wine culture country. While we are nowhere near say France or Italy in that regard, I recall going out to dinner in the 60s and early 70s and how rare it was to see a bottle of wine on a table save an occasional bottle of Chianti in a wicker basket at an Italian restaurant. Now, wine is everywhere and part of many (most?) people’s dining out routine. As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day and we eat our way through the 4th of July holiday, break out those varietals that have now become American icons: a big bold Napa Cabernet with grilled NY Strip; a buttery Sonoma Chardonnay with Maine lobster; a beautiful Sonoma, California Central Coast or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with pork tenderloin and last but certainly not least, a jammy Dry Creek Zinfandel with what else … a good old American grilled burger!!
So let’s take this 4th of July week to celebrate our country’s independence and all that is great in America (especially in these challenging times)…. including its wines and ever-growing wine culture.
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