Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars shot to fame in the 1970s when they won a famous blind tasting (aka the ‘Judgement of Paris’) beating the best French wines of that day. It changed the wine scene forever and kickstarted Californian exports. They are based in Stag’s Leap Wine District, halfway up Napa Valley as you travel north from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a warm climate but there is a cooling influence from the Palisades. These are a collection of rocks that, while they reflect the sun’s heat during the day, channel the cool winds coming up from San Pablo Bay in the evening, through what is known as the Stag’s Leap corridor. This ensures the Stag’s Leap District vineyards avoid the fierceness of heat found in the Calistoga area further north in Napa Valley. For us, the most distinctive feature of Stag’s Leap wines is the ability to have lovely ripeness of fruit without the overpoweringly heady alcohol, which can be a feature of a very warm area.
This wine is from the 2019 vintage, which married sunny, warm days with cooler nights and a longer ripening period than the very hot years. This Artemis Cabernet (a blend of different vineyards in Napa Valley), is a treat. 99.5% of the wine is Cabernet Sauvignon with just .5% Cabernet Franc, and it was aged for 15 months in 42% new oak barrels (almost all of which were French oak barrels, and the rest in used oak barrels). It is a classic Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, full of black and red fruits and a touch of vanilla and spice. Some Cabernets can be very alcoholic and rich, but this has an excellent balance with 15% alcohol, smooth tannin and an elegant feel despite the full body and ripe fruit. This would be a great match with grilled meats, or to savour without food.
See stagsleapwinecellars.com for more.