Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
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Breaking a healthy wine into bits is not destructive. It creates a clear picture of why favorites please and in what ways less agreeable bottles leave something to be desired. Useful sensory evaluation requires only a reliable vocabulary and a personal memory bank.
Although pulling a cork from a wine bottle is about as familiar and beloved a ritual as there is to a wine lover, not many of us stop to think about where these ingenious little bottle stoppers come from. Unlike money, cork really does grow on trees, made from the bark of what’s known as the Cork Oak or Quercus Suber L. Thriving in Mediterranean regions where hot, dry summer climates provide an ideal habitat, cork tree forests can be found predominantly in southern Portugal, Spain and northern Africa, where it’s estimated they cover over 6 million acres. And although cork oak trees grow in many places outside the Mediterranean, Portugal and Spain account for over 80% of the world’s cork production.
Although harvest is one of the most exciting times of the year in the vineyard—signaling the culmination of a growing season and the anticipation of new wines— what happens on the ground after harvest is equally important. It sets the stage not only for the coming growing season, but for the health of the vineyard itself, and ultimately, the quality of future wines. "At harvest we’re farming the vine; immediately after harvest, as the vines enter dormancy, we farm the soil," says Vineyard Manager Kirk Grace.
Last night’s re-run of the famous Judgment of Paris 1976 California v Bordeaux tasting was, much to general surprise, another walkover for California. Exactly the same Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines were tasted 30 years on. It was thought that perhaps after all this time the California wines might have fallen off their perch and the famous longevity of red Bordeaux would put the French wines in the ascendant but this was not the case.
Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley is the one American wine that enjoys truly international renown. Its fame has penetrated even the most hidebound Old World cellars, so much so that for many people it serves as a symbol of American wine at large—the country’s vinous achievements but also its excesses. Over the years, many individual labels—from groundbreakers like Beaulieu Georges de Latour and Inglenook Cask, through heavyweights like Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and Dunn Howell Mountain—have contributed to its fame. But one particular wine, and one seminal moment, stands out. In 1976, when a three year-old Cabernet from the ﬂedgling Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars triumphed at Steven Spurrier’s now legendary Paris tasting, Napa and by extension all American wine began to emerge from its cocoon of provincial isolation. Even more important, that event initiated a process in which critics, consumers, and vintners all began to rethink what constitutes true merit or greatness in wine.
Estate Wine Library
Visit our Estate Wine Library where we share the original tasting notes from the winery as well as notes and comments from our winemaking team and collectors based on tastings over the years.