I’ve a real soft spot for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. An eye-opening spell there in the late 80s as a cellar rat was inspirational. The denim-clad, cool-as-hell winemakers swaggered about the stainless steel and the French barriques in their freshly minted wine cellars with an insouciant Californian air that belied their competitive ambition. The place was run with steely determination by founder Warren Winiarski, a political theorist at the University of Chicago, who moved west to become a winemaker in the mid 1960s, establishing the property in 1970. The small boutique winery became synonymous with the seismic Paris tasting of 1976, an event fictionalized in Bottle Shock [starring the late, great Alan Rickman]. The Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, from a vines just three years old, was voted best red by a panel of French judges. In a blind tasting, the wine felled mighty Bordeaux châteaux Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, Léoville-Las-Cases and Montrose, not to mention domestic competitors Ridge and Heitz. The tasting put Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the Napa Valley on the map.
Posts Tagged ‘Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’
Despite its big reputation, the Napa Valley’s a relatively small wine region, just an eighth of the size of Bordeaux. Given the acquisition of some pretty prominent names by big business over the past few years, it’s heartening to discover that 95% of the Napa’s wineries still remain family owned. These days it’s maybe not quite the beatnik, boho crowd of the 1960s – you’ll have needed a fairly healthy bank [credit] account to have opened shop in the Napa Valley in the past decade or so – but many of Napa’s founding families are still around too.
Napa’s close to my heart, where my wine bug began after visiting in the late 1980s, so it was good to see the Napa Valley Vintners Association back at the London Wine Fair last week. Heitz’s Trailside Cabernet ’05 immediately reminded me what’s exciting about the valley and of the fact that the old ones are often still the best. In this respect too there were good benchmark Napa Cabs from Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena [actually tasted courtesy of Bancroft Wines], Silverado Vineyards, Cain and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
This year the London International Wine Fair celebrates its 30th birthday. For a number of years the event has been held at the ExCel centre in London’s docklands – a vast aircraft hanger of a place en route to Beckton deep in London’s once industrial East End. It’s a well organised event, and impressive in scale – the UK wine trade’s version of the Birmingham Motor show – but it’s also an alarmingly tricky place to taste wine. It must be something to do with the multitude distractions, the thousands of people or the weird lighting that makes it a tough job for even the finest wine to sing in this setting. That said there were a number that looked good on the first day here.