Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars vineyard
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars vineyard

When arriving at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, we walk into an incredibly landscaped and architectural phenomenon. Each place seems to outdo the last. Liz, the wife of the current winemaker Marcus, is our host. The Stag’s Leap district is about 7 minutes from Rutherford (I find that Rutherford is my epicentre of Napa, a bit like Beaune for Burgundy – although there really is no town at all at Rutherford, just a little Taqueria and the Rutherford Grill, a restaurant that does good ribs, steak and Cajun chicken.

What can I say, the vista to the vineyards and the Mountains behind is incredible. Again the most excellent tasting when it comes to service and preparation – glass ware, temperature of wines, promotional material and tasting menus/mats.

We walk around the winery. A Spanish architect has been brought in to design stupidly amazing buildings. The barrel hall was the True James bond set. There are several kilometres of underground pathways in red rock – not too dissimilar to Champagne. This was the brainchild of Warren Winiarski’s (founder) daughter. In the centre of this barrel maze is a concrete centre piece with a huge swinging silver pendulum from the roof supposed to signify Earth and life and Napa, and 5 lights on each corridor entrance in the shape of comets representing each vineyard that Warren bought only when a new comet came into our solar system – honestly they may as well have passed out the LSD at this stage.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars barrel room

We walk past the original wine cellars from, you guessed it, the early 1970’s. Outside are clay imprints of hands in frames along the wall. Maybe about thirty or so. Each hand represents someone influential who has helped in the story of Stag’s leap – hence the ‘Hands of Time’.

Puneet in front of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Hands of Time wall
‘Hands of Time’ wall

nd of course the thing that made Stag’s Leap super famous – it was the red wine that won the 1976 judgement of Paris tasting. The region is very good at making the Judgement of Paris tasting the turning point in history.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars wine tasting
Tasting the Stag’s Leap wines

2016 Karia Chardonnay: Toast and hints of honey – good upfront flavour and quite textural.

2016 Arcadia Chardonnay: Oyster shell and mineral – really nice – beautiful expression. My second best Chardonnay after Kongsgaard.

2017 Oveda Sauvignon Blanc: Very grassy! Bursting with aromatics, summer fruit salad.

2015 SLV Cabernet Sauvignon: Excellent – beautiful grippy tannins, rocky slate and concentration. So as we sat, the SLV Vineyard was in front of us and FAYE was just behind the tree line. It has volcanic soil and produces smaller berries with thicker skins – the wine follows this terroir to typicity.

2015 FAYE Cabernet Sauvignon: Alluvial soils – larger berries, thinner skins. A more aromatic wine, juicier, more rounded.

2015 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon: A really delicious wine – black currants, violets, aromatics, incredible length and concentration – very layered.
Winner of Best Red Wine in the 1976 judgement of Paris. Original Warren Winiarski picked the cask 23 from block 4 of the SLV Vineyard. Warren was Robert Mondavi’s first assistant winemaker. Nathan Faye was the owner of the original land for Stag’s leap. Today the Cask 23 is the best possible blend between SLV and FAYE.

Puneet and family at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars vineyard


Inglenook vineyard, California

We head back to Rutherford to end the fairy tale visit. We enter the site and park up to walk to a small chapel with all glass walls. Inside is the most modern looking person. All white with a white desk, white screen and white floor. I check in and get the ‘all clear’ – back to the car and through the Inglenook gates – it really is like drama and anticipation – Francis Ford Coppola is the King of theatre, in every element of his life and work.

Inglenook winery

Coppola had lunch with Robert Mondavi in 1975. Mondavi told him to buy Inglenook. The place had been established in the late 1800’s by Gustave Niebaum – his name is still on the estate – Niebaum Coppola. We drive to the state. The most impressive building ever – a big turret ivy over large arching double doors, each the entrance to a large cavernous cellar. The main entrance with the huge stair case and so on.
Coppola however only started releasing Inglenook wines from 2011. There are of course Inglenook wines from the state going back decades but these were not commercially available.

2015 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon: Graceful, elegant, refined as usual with the super premium reds. Big red and black fruit and lovely ripe tannins.

2015 Ingelnook Rubicon (Cabernet Sauvignon): The Rubicon is the vineyard at the back of the state. Exceptional – a wine to age – concentrated, ripe and big tannin.

…and with that we bought a baguette from the bistro with local salami and cheese – ate this by the tall tree and pond on the Estate and then headed back to San Francisco.