It was a 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon that came in first at the now famous 1976 Paris Tasting, the blind tasting of Bordeaux and California Cabernet Sauvignon set up by the English wine merchant Steven Spurrier. The story of the tasting, made into films and books, is now part of the coming-of-age story of Napa Valley wines, and Stag’s Leap will forever hold the title of the little California winery that could. Today the estate is also known as a leader in organic and sustainable winemaking, and it continues to win prestigious international awards for its wines. (Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay won the first-place award for white wines at the tasting, meaning that in a blind tasting by French judges California wines won first place in both the red and white wine categories.) Founded in 1972 by Warren and Barbara Winiarski, the winery is in the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley. In 2007 the Winiarski family sold it to a joint venture of Chateau St. Michelle in Washington state and Marchesi Antinori of Italy. It is also partly owned by Altria, the tobacco/food conglomerate.
Stags Leap District AVA in southern Napa Valley has a storied history. It is home to Stag’s Leap Cellars, whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting that included several of Bordeaux’s most exalted First Growths. Vineyards were started in area in the late 19th century, but the district’s rise in prestige started in the late 1960s when Nathan Fay planted Cabernet Sauvignon. Fay later sold his estate to Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Cellars. The district was given its own AVA designation in 1989, and today there are 1,400 vineyard acres. The AVA is especially notable because it was the first in the U.S. to be granted AVA status based on terroir. Its distinctive soils is a mix of volcanic soils, river sediment and loamy clay-like soil. Because the soils don’t retain water well, vineyards in Stag’s Leap tend to grow fruit with great intensity and flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for 95% of the grapes planted in Stags Leap.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.