Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Located in the Stag's Leap district of Napa Valley in California, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was established in 1970 by William Winiarski. Winiarski gave an up a promising academic career in Chicago to pursue his dream of making wine. He learnt his trade from Robert Mondavi before setting up Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Success was instantaneous when the 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon took first place over leading red Bordeaux at a major comparative tasting in Paris in 1976, also known as the “Judgment of Paris”. As a result, Stag’s Leap brought international recognition to California winemaking and the Napa Valley.
When Winiarski established Stag’s Leap, he purchased 44 hectares of land to cultivate wines. He soon achieved great results because the vines represented the unique regional flavour and character of the Napa Valley soil. Petite Sarah and Alicante Bouschet were initially planted in small lots here, but they were later replaced by universal varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Within 2 years of inception (1972), the label released its first vintage, with the name SLV (Stag Leap Vineyards).
The Stags Leap Vineyards were planted in 1970 and have soils that are of the volcanic type. This lends lots of spice, intensity, long life and uniqueness to the fruits grown here. The Fay Vineyards, established by wine-enthusiast Nathan Fay in 1961, contain alluvial-rich soil. This enables the place to grow grapes that are fruity, aromatic and soft. This was the place where the district’s first Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted.
SLV’s wines are classified into three broad categories – Estate Collection, Napa Valley Collection and Winery Exclusives. Their most famous wine is 'Cask 23' which is made only select vintages and fetches quite eye watering prices which makes their 'First Growth' moniker quite appropriate.
The winemaking philosophy at Stags Leap Wine Cellars is to create a perfect balance between the softness and structure of the grapes, so that the resultant wines are complex, intense and unique. The vineyards are considered to be the backbone of the wines and are cared for with sustainable practices.
The estate's winemaker since 2013 has been Marcus Notaro who, prior to moving to Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, made a name for himself at Col Solare in Washington State. Having been at Stag's Leap for several years, Marcus understands the Stag’s Leap winemaking philosophy very well. His ability to express both the terroir and varietal character of the grapes that makes him well-suited to keeping Stag's Leap Wine Cellars at the forefront of Californian winemaking.
From historic estate vineyards and underground caves to their award-winning Cabernets, a visit to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is a must-see feast for both the eyes and the palate. In the caves there are over 34,000 square feet of tunnels capable of housing 6,000 barrels. At the centre of the cave network is the Round Room, where a Foucault pendulum, one of only about 50 in the world, is suspended from the ceiling, marking the passing of time and the ageing of wine.