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.
St. Helena AVA is at the northern end of Napa Valley just north of Rutherford and south of Calistoga. It is a relatively warm climate thanks to the Mayacamas Mountains on its western edge, which protect it from Pacific Ocean fog. Out of the 9,000 acres in the appellation, some 1,500 are under vine. The principal grapes grown in St. Helena are the Bordeaux grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. St. Helena is considered prime wine producing territory, and it was one of the first important wine producing regions in northern California. The legendary Charles Krug founded his winery just north of the town of St. Helena in 1873, and today the appellation is home to many prestigious producers, including Abreu, Grace Family and Spottswoode.