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Wine Talk & More - Julie Robards

Updated: Apr 7

Yay ! We've got a new website and I am really excited to revive the

Wine Talk & More blog that I started with my husband about 10 years ago.

It never really took off then - but here we are ready to start anew.


It's been quite a year with the Covid 19 Pandemic ordering our every move. We have missed doing wine tastings at the store and for me - teaching Winter Wine School . I LOVE Wine School - Share the Knowledge - that's MY motto.


We were in our fifth year of Sunday classes when the eight week course was cut short. I also had to stop working at the wine store because I couldn't take the risk of getting sick, or exposing my husband to the virus.


While I adored being home with Terry, as the days wore on I couldn't help but feel that I had lost a huge part of my identity. This wine blog will help me get back in touch with what I love to do - and it's opening doors I never could have dreamed of. Big things ahead for my husband and I.


Speaking of my husband - he is doing very well. He's 81 years old now and sure has lived an amazing life. Pioneer Wine Writer - Columnist - Foreign Correspondent in London - Author of the NY Times Book of Wine & Terry Robards New Book of Wine - Food & Wine Critic - International Wine Judge - MARRYING ME in Burgundy in 2005.... WHAT A LUCKY GUY ( we met on a dating website - but that's another story).


A while back Terry got a call from Warren Winiarski, who is now 93 yrs. old. Warren is a famous Napa Valley winemaker and he wanted to talk with Terry about the good old days. I have come to the conclusion that red wine is indeed beneficial for health. It's good for you in moderation, and it does contribute to longevity. They had a nice long chat - those two old friends.


Here's a little bit about Warren - in 1968 he moved to Napa, bought some land in the Stags Leap district and planted Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1970, Warren founded Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. His first vintage,1972, was made in a rented facility and was pretty darned good. The following year Stag's Leap Winery was up and running and they were able to bottle enough of the vintage to sell commercially. Thus began the amazing journey of the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet. The California red that changed the wine world and paved the way for the success of American wines.


Fast forward to 1975. Steven Spurrier is a British wine shop owner living in France. He only sold French wines, but he was really impressed with the excellent reds coming out of California. " I was an Englishman in Paris, I was already a square peg in a round hole" he said, "and these were very, very good wines - so why not do something about it."

Spurrier's American associate - Patricia Gallagher - came up with the brilliant idea to host a blind tasting of Napa Valley wines against the best France had to offer. It started out as a way to create awareness of the obscure wines of Napa, and as a way to recognize the American Bicentennial of 1776 - 1976. Nobody really believed that California wine had even the slightest chance of winning.


Nevertheless, the plan was set in motion. Patricia packed her bags, returned to the states and visited Napa Valley. She met winemakers, toured vineyards, sampled the wines and made copious tasting notes. After returning to Paris to report on what she had learned, Spurrier followed in her footsteps. He went to Napa and selected a dozen of the best bottles to bring back to France - six each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The date was set for May 24, 1976 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris. The judges were seven of the most prestigious food and wine experts of France, plus Spurrier and Gallagher. Although many invitations were extended to the press, nobody showed up because they all figured it was a waste of time. One journalist however, George Taber from Time Magazine, changed his mind and decided to attend.


California wines were up against the best France had to offer; four Classified Growth Bordeaux (Cab dominant blends ) and four Grand Cru White Burgundies ( Chardonnay). When all was said and done - sniffed, sipped, swished and spit - the score sheets were tallied and the winners announced.


The number one top red wine was 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet. The winning white wine was also from California - 1973 Chateau Montelena (remember the movie Bottle Shock). Warren Winiarski had just put California Cabernet on the world's wine map. The judges were blindsided, baffled and embarrassed. Napa Cabernet was superior to the most prestigious Bordeaux - and the most important wine experts of France had just proved it. You can read more about that famous tasting on-line, just search 1976 Judgement of Paris.


This brings me to why I brought up Warren Winiarsky in the first place. Warren, who sold Stag's Leap Cellars in 2007 for a cool $185 million dollars, felt it was important to preserve the works of the journalists who helped cultivate the growing wine industry of the 20th century. To prove his point, he founded a Wine Writer's Museum at the University of California Davis. A school that is world renown for it's outstanding educational wine programs.


I was delighted when he called us with the news, especially since I've been very concerned about what to do with Terry's important papers. And here was a wine writer's museum just LOOKING for a donation! How cool is THAT?!


Warren had talked with many wine journalists, but very few had kept their research material. When he reached out to us to see if we had anything to contribute he hit pay dirt. Let me tell you - a literal gold mine of documentation.


My husband kept oodles of stuff. Drafts of his printed articles, correspondence with famous wine guys, decades of notebooks full information and tasting notes. You name it - he kept it. When I marveled at the meticulous organization of his files he said, "It was the time before computers - I had to keep accurate records."

o Warren put me in touch with his associate Julie - and she gave me a clear understanding of what they were seeking. I now had a mission: first and foremost - get everything out of storage and transfer it to our home. Thanks to my kids and grandkids - we got that job done in two days. Then all throughout last fall and winter we sorted and organized. It is a monumental task that takes a lot of time.


Each document, from menus of famous wine dinners, to printed articles and photos, conjure up nostalgic memories of those glory days. Long forgotten memories surface, and in turn lead to wonderful stories and great conversation. It makes me feel sad sometimes though - since so much has changed with retirement and old age. One thing that I am very grateful for though is that a good old friend has made a final resting place for my husbands life long work.

Cheers,

Julie





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