During this wine's youth, we suggest coaxing its aromatics and flavors to the fore by gently swirling it in the glass, to increase the exposure to oxygen. Swirl and then savor the welcoming scents of dried rose petals, smoke, and sandalwood, followed by hints of green olive, date, black pepper, and cedar. This rich array is echoed in the mouth, which fills with flavors of vanilla, olives, sandalwood, and black cherry. The wine's complexity continues to unfold as the finish slowly, gracefully recedes. Time will take this wondrous wine to even greater heights. For now, pair it with penne tossed with roasted eggplant and late summer heirloom tomatoes, generously topped with shaved Parmesan cheese, or a skirt steak marinated in garlic-spiked olive oil, then grilled over wood.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Winery
Considered one of the "first growths" of Napa Valley, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars produces renowned Cabernet Sauvignon from its historic Stags Leap District estate vineyards. Founded in 1970, the winery brought international recognition to California winemaking and the Napa Valley when the 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the now famout 1976 Paris Tasting, also known as the "Judgement of Paris." Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' three estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons - CASK 23, S.L.V. and Fay - are among the most highly regarded and collected Cabernet Sauvignons worldwide. The wines are fashioned to express richness balanced by elegant restraint, an approach often described as "an iron fist in a velvet glove."
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.