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Publisher's Summary

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses, amid its illustrious artifacts, two bottles of wine: a 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. These are the wines that won at the now-famous Paris Tasting in 1976, where a panel of top French wine experts compared some of France's most famous wines with a new generation of California wines. Little did they know the wine industry would be completely transformed as a result, sparking a golden age for viticulture that extends beyond France's hallowed borders to Australia, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and across the globe.

Then Paris correspondent for Time magazine, George M. Taber recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on the three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. At a time when California was best known for cheap jug wine, these pioneers used radical new techniques alongside time-honored winemaking traditions to craft premium American wines that could stand up to France's finest. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks in captivating prose, bringing to life an eclectic cast and magnificent settings. For lovers of wine and anyone who enjoys a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old, this is an illuminating and deeply satisfying tale.

©2005 George M. Taber (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An intoxicating indulgence for Sideways fans, and an education for would-be wine sophisticates." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Zack
  • Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA
  • 02-28-13

First 1/2 Fantastic but Second 1/2 Drags

I am a huge fan of the movie Bottle Shock, so I had high expectations for this book. The first half of the book was an excellent set of vignettes and histories that describe the events and people which culminated in the Judgement of Paris. The story of the judgement was also well told and highly interesting. Unfortunately, after this point the book begins to loose its way. It becomes less focused and more of a general discourse on the world of wine. While interesting, the story became a little to loose to keep me interested. So I would say definitely give the book a chance, but don't feel bad if your not riveted by the second half.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • William
  • NEW YORK, NY, United States
  • 10-14-13

Excellent recount of the Judgement of Paris

Where does Judgment of Paris rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I saw the movie Bottle Shock. This book just reveal how lacking the movie was!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great story whether you are a wine lover or not (although that helps)

While much has changed in the 10 years or so since the latest references in the book and 40 years since the actual event in Paris the impact of the Paris tasting on the not only the California wine industry but the ripple effect on the world (including France) makes a fascinating read/listen. The narration is a bit plodding after a while but it's worth the effort to stick through it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good history of the Napa Valley. Wish it could be updated for 2015.

Would recommend this book to all budding vita culture majors in the UC Davis program.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Peaked Too Early

Would you consider the audio edition of Judgment of Paris to be better than the print version?

Not necessarily -- you can skip ahead in the print version.

If you’ve listened to books by George M. Taber before, how does this one compare?

I have not.

Which scene was your favorite?

The Tasting in Paris, of course.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The story of Mike Grgich.

Any additional comments?

What a strange book. For the first half, it's all about the Great Tasting of 1976. The scene is set. We learn the history of French wines and California wines, all culminating in this singular event. But the event happens just a little after the mid-point. And then...the book turns into a treatise on the Wines of the World. Not uninteresting. But decidedly anti-climactic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator didn't do his homework.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The narrator mispronounced several of the names, to the point of distraction. He pronounced St. Helena, CA as if it were Helena, MT (a town that is mentioned at least 100 times throughout the book). To someone who lives in the wine country, that's anathema. His research needed to be much more thorough, and now I am wondering how many other words he has mispronounced. Gwurztraminer was another one.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Sean Runnette?

Someone who has a better handle on French language pronunciation, and does better research on English pronunciation.

Did Judgment of Paris inspire you to do anything?

It's a fantastic event in California's wine history and I am grateful Taber took the interest to be there and then to chronicle it with such detail and background.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fine story, terrible narration

This is a fine book for both wine dorks and reasonable newbies. The depth of information is pretty fantastic and thoroughly researched. That said, the writing itself is on the quirky-pretentious side. And the narration is appallingly bad. The reader is obsessed with badly imitating the accents and genders of the people quoted in the book. He's attempting to be ostentatious, but comes off as frustrating to listen to. Notably bad is his late-in-book attempt at an Australian accent.

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  • Robbie
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 06-23-18

So very interresting!

This was so very interesting. The broad historical background, as well as the personal accounts of those who figured large in this "competition" and the analysis of its aftereffects make this a super-worthy read/listen. Very well written and superbly narrated. One of the best audiobooks I have listened to and I have listened to many.



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Solid history

A must read for wine lovers but perhaps better in print. The narrator had a monotonous cadence to me that made me speed up the reading to break it up a little.

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  • Robyn
  • United States
  • 04-19-18

Excellent, but misrepresented

I went into listening to this book with the expectation it was focused on the 1976 Paris tasting that brought California wines to the attention of many. The story starts long before this event and gives an intriguing history on the California wine industry and many of the key players involved.