Hartwell Estate Vineyards is on the Silverado Trail in the Stag’s Leap District. It was established in 1986 by Bob and Blanca Hartwell, who used the 20-acre property to raise cattle before slowing turning to winemaking. They had their first grape harvest in 1990 and for nearly a decade the wine was made and marketed by Grace Family Vineyard. In 1997 Hartwell built a winery and today the winemaker is Benoit Touquette, whose previous experience was at several Bordeaux chateaux. The estate makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
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.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.