Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Tinajas: A Lost Art

Many visitors to our Napa Valley winery comment on the three large earthenware vessels they see on “The Outlook,” the grassy knoll overlooking our FAY vineyard and the Stags Leap Palisades. These beautiful Spanish vessels, purchased from an antique art dealer, are known as tinajas (pronounced tee-na-ha), and at one time were used for aging and storing wine.

Of course, wine vessels are as old as wine itself. While amphoras were used primarily for transporting wine, another type of vessel – much larger – was needed for aging and storage purposes only. In Spain, as early as the 17th century, these vessels were called tinajas, and were kept in underground wine cellars, or bodegas, where the wine would stay naturally cool. Made completely by hand from special clay found deep within the earth, some tinajas reached great dimensions. Over 13 feet high and 7 feet across, they weighed over 2 tons and could hold over 2,000 gallons of wine.

Of course, as new technology and materials were developed for storing wines, such as stainless steel vats, the production of these huge vessels came to a halt. But while the creation of tinajas are a lost art, those few that remain are a beautiful and cherished reminder that wine and winemaking are as old as society itself.