Napa Valley Cab Revealed: Stags Leap vs. Rutherford
> Although both regions receive similar acclaim for their Cabs, they have strikingly different characteristics.
The Rutherford Bench is a narrow strip of land at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in Western Napa Valley. Because vines are planted on a gradual, east-facing slope, they are privy to afternoon sun exposure that eludes other regions. Wines made with grapes grown on the Rutherford Bench are known to exhibit “Rutherford Dust,” meaning they are full bodied with spicy and earthy fruit flavors.
Stags Leap is on the opposite side of the valley from the Rutherford Bench. It’s also a little further south, and more exposed to the wind and fog from the San Pablo Bay. In addition to this climatic feature, Stags Leap hillside vines are planted on west-facing slopes, so they don’t receive as much sun exposure as the east-facing slopes of the Rutherford Bench. Because of this, the grapes do not ripen as much as those from Rutherford. Thus, Cabs from Stags Leap have become known as an “iron fist in a velvet glove.” The “iron fist” refers to these wines’ tighter fruit, and the “velvet glove” refers to their smoother tannins, lusher mid palate, and more approachable flavor profile than classic Rutherford Bench wines.
If you like the combination of firm tannins with complex flavors of black fruit, earth and spice, than look no further than the Rutherford Bench. For those of you who enjoy Cabs that have a silkier texture with blackberry, cherry, and chocolate flavors, I suggest exploring what Stags Leap has to offer.