Sommeliers, vintners and oenophiles all know May 24, 1976 as the legendary “Judgment of Paris.” On that date, California winemakers shocked the world by beating established French wines in a blind tasting. It was a total stunner. No one thought it could be done. That day can be considered a birthday of the Napa Valley region, as upstart winemakers began to crop up, armed with the knowledge that they could create a product as good or even better than the most well-respected wineries.
Forty years later, on May 24, 2016, it happened again. Mira, a relatively new winery from Napa, hosted a 40th anniversary tasting of seven of the top wines from both California and France. (Held in South Carolina, the event was nicknamed the “Judgment of Charleston“). They also included their own wine, a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 11-judge panel included sommeliers, including several advanced sommeliers and a master sommelier, as well as wine experts. The tasting was blind — the judges had no idea what they were drinking, other than that it was from either the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. Rick Rubel, the Belmont Charleston Place wine director and Charleston Grill sommelier co-chaired the wine selection committee and oversaw the blind tasting.
The seven big players in the competition were serious, stately wines. Two of them — Screaming Eagle’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Château Haut-Brion — were rated 100 points by esteemed wine critic Robert Parker in “Wine Advocate.” The other five were no slouches. There were two 99-point wines, two 96-point wines and one 93-95 point wine.
And then there was Mira’s entry, a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Schweizer Vineyard, a small, family-owned vineyard in the Stags Leap District. For over 100 years, Schweizer Vineyard has been producing grapes for top-quality wines. That section of the world is one of the finest for making Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, at the Judgment of Paris in 1976, it was a Cabernet from that very region — made by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars — that bested all the French juggernauts in the blind tasting.
Mira’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon actually marks the first time the Schweizer family has ever allowed a winery to designate Schweizer Vineyard label. They picked a good one to start. Against all odds, Mira Winery’s entry in the blind tasting finished third, behind only the Pétrus 2012 (a Merlot) and the 100-point Château Haut-Brion.
Mira, an underdog winery few have even heard of, finished ahead of the top names in the industry. Like its predecessor 40 years ago, the Judgment of Charleston may be remembered as an inflection point — the first time people started talking about Mira Winery as elite. It certainly won’t be the last.