BEVERAGES: Judgment Day

With the solemnity of Supreme Court justices, twelve wine-tasters gathered last week in a private room at the California State Fair in Sacramento to choose the best California wines. They had an anxious audience. Since 1769, when Fra Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan, planted the first wine grapes at the Mission of San Diego, viticulture had grown until it is California's biggest agricultural industry, with an investment of $475 million. Last year, California produced 87% of all the wine drunk in the U.S.

Carefully, three clerks sorted out 474 bottles of wine, stripped them of identi fying labels. Then they...

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