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."
Learn More About Merlot
Merlot (mehr-LOW) No second fiddle
Merlot is coming back into its own. High popularity led to mass production, which then led to a backlash towards the variety (remember Miles in Sideways?). But passionate Merlot producers, and of course the right bank of Bordeaux, continued to produce quality versions of this grape. Merlot remains the principle grape of top chateaux in St-Émilion
(think Petrus), not to mention its growth in popularity and quality in California and Washington State.
Merlot flourishes both as a single varietal and as a blending agent. It's known
for adding softness to the austere Cabernet
Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends in France, California and elsewhere. Chateau
Petrus, perhaps one of the most expensive and sought-after wines of the world,
is almost 100% Merlot. The grape exudes soft fruit flavors of plum and blackberry,
but it's versatile - the style can change depending on the climate and soil.
Merlot from mountain areas are usually more Cabernet like, with stronger structure
and tannins, while Merlot from valley floor areas and clay-based soils are opulent, with velvelty texture, often approachable when young.
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Bordeaux, California, Washington State, Chile
plum, cherry, blackberry, spice, raspberry
Learn More About Napa Valley, California
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 grated 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.