Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber [kindle online]

  • Full Title : Judgment of Paris: California vs. France & the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine
  • Autor: George M. Taber
  • Print Length: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication Date: September 27, 2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743297326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743247511
  • Download File Format: azw3


The only reporter present at the mythic Paris Tasting of 1976—a blind tasting where a panel of esteemed French judges chose upstart California wines over France’s best—for the first time introduces the eccentric American winemakers and records the tremendous aftershocks of this historic event that changed forever the world of wine.

The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest—a blind tasting—a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France’s best.

George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks—repositioning the industry and sparking a golden age for viticulture across the globe. With an eclectic cast of characters and magnificent settings, Judgment of Paris is an illuminating tale and a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old.


From Publishers Weekly

In 1976, a Paris wine shop arranged a tasting as a gimmick to introduce some California wines; the judges, of course, were all French and militantly chauvinistic. Only one journalist bothered to attend, a Time correspondent, looking for a possible American angle. The story he got turned out to be a sensation. In both red and white blind tastings, an American wine won handily: a 1973 Stag’s Leap cabernet and a 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay. When the story was published the following week, it stunned both the complacent French and fledgling American wine industries—and things have never been the same since. Taber, the Time man, has fashioned an entertaining, informative book around this event. Following a brisk history of the French-dominated European wine trade with a more detailed look at the less familiar American effort, he focuses on the two winning wineries, both of which provide him with lively tales of colorful amateurs and immigrants making good, partly through willingness to experiment with new techniques. While the outrage of some of the judges is funny, this is a serious business book, too, sure to be required reading for American vintners and oenophiles. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1976, a Paris-based British wine merchant, Steven Spurrier, organized a blind tasting of California and French wines in honor of the bicentennial of the American Revolution. With labels hidden from view, French wine experts in attendance at Spurrier’s event pronounced the California wines generally superior to those from France. Some judges professed to be unable even to discern which wines were French and which American. Media reports of this tasting sent shockwaves throughout the wine world. Thirty years after the event, this seems very old news, but at the time it marked an absolute revolution in taste and in expectations. California’s wine industry took off, commanding ever-higher prices and attracting even more talent. French wineries were forced to innovate and find better ways to market their formerly unrivalled bottlings. Taber expands on the events leading up to this celebrated event with a readable, concise history of wine making in America, recounting the long journey from sweet, sacramental concord grape wines to today’s range of sophisticated offerings. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved



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rlic powder, smoked paprika and cornstarch in a bowl and toss the meat in the spice mixture.

To make the biscuits, sift together the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour and set the mixture aside in the freezer if possible. For this recipe, I like to use butter rather than shortening. I put the butter in the freezer until it is frozen solid. The trick in getting a buttery, flaky crust is maintaining those pretty little flecks of butter during the mixing process.

Using a potato peeler, you will essentially peel the butter. I peel mine right over the dry ingredients. Lightly toss the flecks of butter in the flour mixture and let it set in the freezer or fridge for about 10 minutes. At this point, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).

While the flour mixture is chilling, drop a couple ice cubes in the buttermilk. You can use a fork to keep them out of your forming dough. The purpose of the cubes isn’t to dilute the buttermilk but to chill it.

Slowly pour the buttermilk into the chilled flour mixture. I like to use the same fork to gently incorporate the two. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl while also not overmixing. Roll out dough and use a glass to cut round biscuit shapes. Place on a baking sheet and bake the biscuits for about 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden brown.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add the vegetable oil and bring it to medium-high heat. Before I sear the meat in the pan, I like to sprinkle a bit of flour into the vegetable oil once it’s coming up to temperature in order to tell how hot it is. If the flour starts to sizzle a little bit, that’s a sign that you’re good to go. If the oil is smoking, that’s a sign it’s way too hot.

I use vegetable oil for this because it has a higher smoke point compared to olive oil. If an oil becomes too hot, it will burn and develop an unwanted flavor. If this happens to you, just toss the oil and start over. I’ve burned a million things in my lifetime.

Once the pan and oil are at a perfect searing temperature, evenly distribute the coated meat pieces in the pan. You should hear a nice searing noise as this occurs. The next trick involves not trying to loosen the meat from the bottom of the pan.

Let the meat hang out for a few minutes and let a nice crust form before you try to give it a toss. The Maillard reaction is taking place as it caramelizes the natural carbohydrates found in the meat. The Maillard reaction also occurs in breads as amino acids give browned foods a desired flavor.

After you remove the meat morsels from the bottom of the pan, place them to the side to add back to the sauce later. (You don’t want them to overcook and become dry or tough.) Next, add the mushrooms and butter to the pan. Give them a nice stir with the meat drippings and let them caramelize for about 5 minutes on medium heat.

After 10 minutes of browning, turn off the heat and, with a wooden spoon, start to slowly incorporate the cold beef stock, adding 1 cup (240 ml) at a time and gently stirring after each addition. Add the brandy and stir until incorporated. Bring the stroganoff to a simmer, but do not boil. Add the meat back to the pan to cover in the sauce.

Serve beef stroganoff over buttermilk biscuits.

Butcher Babe Tips

✴ Did you know you can make your own buttermilk at home? All it takes is milk and an acid, such as lemon juice. The ratio is easy to remember: 1 tablespoon (15 ml) acid per 1 cup (240 ml) milk = 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk. So, for example, if you need 3 cups (720 ml) buttermilk, simply add 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lemon juice to 3 cups (720 ml) milk, and you have instant homemade buttermilk!

✴ While you’re at it, you might as well double the biscuit recipe so that you can freeze half the dough. There’s nothing wrong with having some biscuits lying around. I go ahead and roll mine out as the recipe recommends and freeze them on a tray for about an hour. Once they have become ‘individually frozen,’ I pop them into an airtight plastic bag or container. They will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Follow the same baking instructions.


Meat is made up of groups of muscle fibers that run very closely to one another, also known as striations. One must be able to see and understand the various ways in which these muscular groups run together and how to cut against them. Simply examine the direction in which the meats’ fibers are running, then cut in the opposite direction. The time you want to cut with the grain is when making Beef Jerky . Why? Because you want a tough, chewy snack!


Bolognese is one of those dishes you just can’t be mad at. It’s like the best tomato soup you’ve ever had bought a one-way ticket to Italy and made a beeline for the butcher shop once it got there. Speaking of making a trip to the butcher shop, this recipe walks you through the simple steps of making your own Italian-flavored sausage in your own home. You’ll discover how easy it is to infuse custom grinds at home with the types of flavors you love, like crushed red pepper, sage and oregano.

Get ready to fill your house with notes of garlic and red wine simmering with one another. Its comforting flavors make you feel right at home. I like it even better on day two or three, when all the flavors have had a chance to really marry with one another.


1½ lb (683 g) ground pork

1½ lb (683) ground beef (preferably 80/20; the fattier, the better)

2 tbsp (30 g) sea salt

1 tbsp (15 g) freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbsp (7 g) red chili flakes

1 tbsp (8 g) caraway seeds

2 tsp (4 g) dried sage

2 tbsp (2 g) dried oregano

1 tbsp (1 g) dried thyme

1 tbsp (14 g) packed brown sugar

3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil

2 cups (360 g) peeled medium dice sweet potatoes

2 cups (300 g) medium dice white onion

2 cups (300 g) medium dice celery

2 cups (300 g) medium dice carrots

4 cups (640 g) medium dice fresh tomatoes (skin and seeds are OK)

3 cups (720 ml) red wine

3 cups (720 ml) cold water

1 cup (240 ml) red wine vinegar


8 cups (1.9 L) water

2 cups (340 g) stone-ground grits (not instant)

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2 tbsp (28 g) butter

1½ lb (683 g) Parmigiano-Reggiano (or any other sharp, melting cheese)


1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, cleaned and stems removed

1 whole head garlic, minced

4 lemons, zested

Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).

In a large bowl, mix the pork and beef with the salt, pepper, red chili flakes, caraway seeds, sage, oregano, thyme and brown sugar to create your Bolognese meat base. The more you make these sort of grinds, the more comfortable you will become infusing them with your personality and flavor profiles. You can always make the sausage and sear off a small bite to see if you’re in the right neighborhood. If not, you can always add more seasoning.

Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, oven-safe 8-quart (7.5-L) pot over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, red wine, cold water and red wine vinegar and cook until a little bit of color starts to develop. You may even notice a nice golden-brown color starting to develop on the bottom of the pan.

Add the Bolognese meat mixture and brown it as well. As the meat cooks, you’ll notice some golden-brown pieces sticking to the bottom of the pot. This is called fond (pronounced like “fawn”). The best way to remove fond is by deglazing the pot with an acid of some sort. The acid in this case is the wine and tomatoes.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Pour in the grits. Cook the grits for about 20 to 25 minutes on medium heat. Once the grits become nice and soft, season them with salt and pepper. Pour the grits into a medium casserole pan that has been smeared with butter. Let the grits chill in the refrigerator until set, which takes about 45 minutes. I let mine set while I cook the Bolognese. You can skip this step entirely and serve right out of the pan if you’re in a pinch for time.

After the grits are set in the pan, I like to use a round circle cutter to remove the portions for my guests. I will transfer them to a baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes or until hot.

Once the parsley is cleaned and the stems are removed, get ready to chop your heart out. This is a good time to make a lot of noise on your cutting board and start talking with your best Italian accent. We are looking for a pretty fine chop here.

Next, let’s undress the garlic. Nothing tastes better than fresh garlic and lemon. However, there are some pretty handy garlic peelers out there. So get to peeling and mincing! It’s not the most fun job in the world, but it’s worth it.

Last but not least, the lemon zest! I love to do this last because the lemon will aid you in removing that garlic smell from your hands. The best tool to use is a rasp grater or a microplane. I went a long time without buying one. I used to use hand graters and potato peelers. I was basically living in a cave.

When you zest citrus fruit (a lemon in this case), take care not to get down to the white pith of the fruit. It is bitter. Really bitter. Save your lemons for cocktails. Duh.

Mix the parsley, garlic and lemon zest together in a small bowl. If stored in an airtight container, this mixture will last 2 days under refrigeration.

Right before I serve the grit cakes, I top them with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and broil them until the cheese becomes golden brown. If you are more into a rustic look, you can also serve the grits hot right out of the pan they were cooked in. I would remind you not to forget the cheese, but you won’t. Serve with Pork Bolognese and garnish with gremolata.

Prepare the aromatics and take a step back to admire just how beautiful fresh cut veggies can be.

Grind the meat. Don’t you feel like a Renaissance man or woman? Here I’m using the coarse setting for my grinds.

Mix the grinds with the aromatics until well-incorporated.

Sear the Bolognese mixture in the saucepan.

Gremolata can be served as a garnish at room temperature. A few sprinkles of this zesty stuff and your mouth will be watering.

Butcher Babe Tip

There’s something in the butcher’s world known as “smear.” Smear is not your friend. Smear is just like it sounds, a messy result of trying to grind warm meat, meat that has excess silver skin or cartilage (both inedible) and warm grinding equipment. Avoid smear by putting the meat and grinding equipment in the freezer until very cold (for about 15 to 30 minutes); cutting up meat to avoid silver skin and cartilage that will clog the grinder; and cut frozen meat into small enough pieces to fit in your grinder. Also, when cleaning a grinder, cold water works best because it doesn’t coagulate or cook the meat. Once you dislodge any meat particles, then go for the hot and soapy water.


I’ve always believed that love is a flavor. My grandmother, Susie Gavin, first introduced that timeless taste to me. I have memories of entering her perfectly tailored home and being comforted by the smell of her magical slow cooker. Every Sunday afternoon, she set her table like it was a national holiday and she’d cook a spread of food that made you swear it was one! I’d be homesick for her company and food, so I’d always try to re-create the dish with no luck! It took me until a few years after culinary school to discover the secrets of this old-school roast. The only reason I know her trick now is because one Christmas, while admiring her cooking,

I saw her use it—a packet of Italian dressing seasoning.


4 whole heads garlic

¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

Dash salt

1 (3- to 4-lb [1.4- to 1.8-kg]) bone-in or boneless chuck roast (or bone-in or boneless short ribs)

3 tbsp (45 g) kosher salt

3 tbsp (45 g) freshly cracked black pepper

Olive oil, as needed

3 large white onions, large dice

1 lb (455 g) baby carrots

1 bunch celery, roughly chopped (reserve the celery leaves for garnish)

1 lb (455 g) white button mushrooms

2 large tomatoes, large dice (with seeds, skin and juice) or 1 (16-oz [475-ml]) can crushed tomatoes

½ cup (120 ml) red wine

2 cups (480 ml) red wine vinegar

8 cups (1.9 L) beef stock

2 (.07-oz [2-g]) packages Italian dressing seasoning

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

Place the heads of garlic in an aluminum foil pouch, add the olive oil and salt and roast the garlic in the oven for 30 minutes. I place the little foil pouch on a pan in case there’s any leakage during the roasting process. These garlic heads can be done in a larger quantity if you wish. I usually buy a few pounds of garlic at a time and keep them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It’s so nice having heads of garlic that you can just squeeze into whatever you like. The best way to do that is to just barely remove the top of the head with a sharp knife and squeeze from the root to the tip.

Season the chuck roast or short ribs with the salt and pepper, and, in a large Dutch oven, sear the meat in olive oil until it is golden brown on both sides. Remove the seared meat from the Dutch oven for a few moments.

On the stovetop over medium heat, add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms to the Dutch oven and sweat them for 10 minutes. Next, deglaze the Dutch oven with the tomatoes, wine and red wine vinegar, removing all the golden goodness from the bottom of the pan. A wooden spoon works great for this.

Add the meat back to the Dutch oven, letting it rest on top of the bed of sweating veggies.

Create a braising liquid by combining the beef stock with the Italian dressing seasoning, stirring well to avoid lumps of seasoning. Add the braising liquid to the Dutch oven. The meat should be covered completely with liquid. This ensures that it will not dry out.

Bake the roast in the oven for a few hours. The meat will let you know it’s done once it’s


I like to serve my roast in a bowl with fresh celery leaves and a few cloves of roasted garlic. This dish makes great leftovers and is easy to reheat for several days. I’d venture to say it would also freeze well, but there’s never any extra Sunday roast lying around for that.


I like to use veal liver because it has a far more delicate texture and flavor than an adult cow’s liver does. I recommend purchasing the liver from a butcher shop as they will slice it for you. It’s important to ask a lot of questions and pay attention as to what artisan butchers are doing behind the counter to fulfill all your culinary fantasies.


½ lb (228 g) bacon

2 white sweet onions, cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices

4 tbsp (60 ml) Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup (38 g) cornstarch

½ cup (125 g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp (15 g) sea salt

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1½ lb (683 g) veal liver cut into ¼- to ½-inch (6- to 13-mm) thick slices lengthwise (remove the skin and pat the liver dry with a paper towel before seasoning)

2 tbsp (28 g) butter

3 cups (720 ml) cold water or stock

¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar


2 to 3 lb (910 g to 1.5 kg) celery root

1 tbsp (15 g) salt

2 tbsp (28 g) butter or a few more (my pants from last summer don’t fit, so how much butter you want to add is up to you)

5 cloves chopped garlic

1 tsp red chili flakes, optional

8 oz (228 g) sour cream

1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 ml) celery root simmering liquid (depending on the thickness you’re looking for)

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Cut the bacon into ¼-inch (6-mm) cubes or, if you’re using platter-style bacon, just cut it into strips. Sometimes if I don’t want to contaminate my cutting board with raw bacon, I’ll use a pair of kitchen shears and cut the bacon right over the pan I’ll be cooking it in. Add the bacon, onions and Worcestershire sauce to an oven-safe pan (such as a cast iron pan).

Bake the bacon uncovered for 15 minutes or until golden brown. I like to use a wooden spoon to stir the bacon every so often. As the bacon renders, it acts as the fat to caramelize the onions. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone. The smell of bacon and onions is also intoxicating. It’s my version of aromatherapy. Why aren’t there candles that smell like this?

While the bacon and onions are marrying each other in the oven, combine the cornstarch, flour, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. I tend to toss all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and I’ll give ’em a nice whisk with a fork.

With a potato peeler, remove the exterior skin of the celery root. Think of it as a really large, fragrant potato. That being said, remove any weird spots or notches. Cut the celery root into large chunks and toss them into a large pot of salted boiling water so that they are completely covered.

In about 15 minutes, the celery root will be soft and tender and ready to mash. Strain off the hot cooking liquid into the sink while you catch the celery root in a colander. Reserve 1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 ml) of the liquid for the mash.

While the celery root is drying off for a few moments, place the now-empty pan back onto the stovetop. On medium heat, sauté the butter, garlic and red chili flakes until the garlic is slightly golden brown. Then add the cooked celery root to the pot. I like my mashed veggies a little chunky. You can easily obtain the texture by mashing them by hand in the pot with a fork. Finish the mash with the sour cream, simmering liquid and salt and pepper. After the mash is made, cover it with a lid on low heat to keep warm.

Carefully remove the hot bacon and onions from the oven and start cooking them on the stovetop over medium heat. Coat veal livers with the cornstarch mixture. Make a large well in the middle of the pan to sear the veal liver in and add the butter. Sear for about 4 minutes on one side and then 3 on the other. Remove slices from the pan and set them aside on a plate.

Now it’s time to make the bacon gravy. The residual cornstarch from the veal liver acts as the thickening agent for this old-school treat. With a wooden spoon, I start to slowly incorporate the bacon and onions with the pan drippings left from the seared liver. In the culinary world, the delicious, brown flavor drippings left in pans is known as fond. It makes sense to me that it is named this, because I am very fond of its flavor. The best way to remove this epic flavor is typically with an acid, such as vinegar or bourbon. In this case, feel free to use either, but my grandma uses the water and apple cider vinegar with her wooden spoon.

Bring this gravy to a low simmer while stirring frequently. After about 5 minutes of solid simmering, the gravy will take shape. I finish my gravy with freshly cracked black pepper and salt. Add the liver back to the gravy and enjoy over the celery root mash. This dish makes awesome leftovers.

Butcher Babe Tips

✴ This finished celery root mash is fabulous baked as a casserole, as a leftover or as an addition to twice-baked potatoes. Reheat the mash at 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes or to a temperature of 160°F (71°C) internally.

✴ If you can’t find veal liver, that’s fine, cow will work. Keep searching for veal though; it’s heavenly.


I love the flavor of this sauce. It’s so very earthy and pure. Red wine really is worth the buy, as it makes this dish sing. The flavor from the root veggies permeat


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