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The Importance of Stags Leap History in California

Winds from the San Pablo Bay funnel into the region and impart an amount of approachability on varietals that are normally tannic in their youth. This is coupled with the fact that the volcanic, unfertile soils lead to acute flavor concentration. It is no surprise that vintners continue to be drawn to the fabulous balance of the local terroir.

Because of these advantageous growing conditions, the business of wine production flourished in Stags Leap until Phylloxera struck. Because of its close proximity to other wine producing regions, the viticultural area was devastated by the pest.

What little vineyard acreage remained was largely eradicated or neglected when Prohibition became law. After these two disasters, other agricultural crops began to dominate the region.

In the early 1960s, Nathan Fay planted Cabernet Sauvignon in the rocky soils for the first time. Richard Steltzner planted vineyards in the heart of the region shortly thereafter. Bernard Portet of Clos Du Val was another pioneer in the renaissance of the region’s wine industry.

However, it was Warren Winiarski of Stags Leap Wine Cellars who first brought the region global fame. At the legendary 1976 blind tasting against France, Winiarski’s Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon came in first place. It accomplished what was previously considered impossible by beating several premium red wines from Bordeaux.

I recently opened a 1993 Cask 23 and was extremely impressed with its combination of vibrant fruit and mellowed tannins. Great Cabs from this AVA are gracefully assertive, and are quite food friendly. This renowned winery also makes a very refreshing Sauvignon Blanc that I love to sip on warm afternoons.

The past few decades have silenced any doubt that the terroir of the viticultural area is extremely well-suited for Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabs from the AVA are generally more approachable in their youth than those from Rutherford. At the same time, Rutherford Cabs generally gain more from age. In 1989, the region’s unique climate was recognized when it was granted AVA status.

> Stags Leap Wineries

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