Drawing almost five million visitors to the region each year, Napa Valley wine tasting features highly on the must-do list of dedicated wine enthusiasts interested in sampling world renowned Cabernet Sauvignon amid California’s sun-kissed surroundings.
Although Californian wines and the huge crowds that flock to the Golden State to enjoy wine tasting in Napa Valley are now taken for granted, none of this would have been possible were it not for an event in the 1970s that changed the course of American wine history.
In 1976, a British fine wine merchant in Paris named Steven Spurrier organised a blind tasting between Californian and French wines, with the expectation that those from Bordeaux and Burgundy would win – leading to increased sales for his business. The event brought together a group of esteemed French judges tasting their way through 10 red wines and 10 white wines from the two countries. Bearing in mind that during this time, Californian wines were generally considered poor quality – if even considered at all!
However, that perception was completely changed when Californian wines won both categories – sending shock waves through the wine world and leaving a legacy of Napa Valley wine tastings in its wake. The event, which was given the informal name the ‘Judgement of Paris’ as an allusion to an ancient Greek myth, was covered in a four-paragraph article in Time magazine that would become the most important article ever written about American wine.
After its publication, demand for Californian wines surged – inspiring the region’s wine makers, and those from other New World countries such as Australia and New Zealand to reach for higher aspirations, arguably making it a watershed moment for the world and not just Napa Valley.
Today there are over 450 wineries scattered across 45,000+ acres of beautiful countryside, while Napa wine tastings have become the region’s main drawing card for tourism. A pair of wineries – Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelena Winery – that were associated with the Paris Judgement remain popular on the wine trail.Wine tasting in Napa Valley is considered to be less formal than typical degustations in France, although most wineries have impeccable tasting rooms where premium wines can be sampled – often accompanied by some of the gastronomic food that the region is also renowned for.
Despite its relatively small size, Napa has more than 24 restaurants carrying at least one Michelin star, with two restaurants boasting three stars, as well as several eateries being established by celebrity chefs such as Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence and Masaharu Morimoto. Napa Valley wine tasting will typically introduce visitors to the region’s signature signature oak aged Cabernet Sauvignon (or classic ‘Napa Cab’), which is internationally acclaimed for its savoury, smoky and peppered undertones with dark berry and mocha flavours.
Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the most planted grape variety in the region, although Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio among others are successfully grown here – all of which can be sampled during a Napa Valley wine tasting.
If you are interested in experiencing the finest wine tasting Napa Valley has to offer, contact Wine Paths for more information and inspirational ideas before planning a bespoke trip that can be organised by our local expert.
If you're interested in one of our Napa Valley Wine Tours, please visit this link.