Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, located in the Stag’s Leap District at the southern end of the Silverado Trail, is unquestionably one of the icons of the Napa Valley. While it is currently fashionable to point the finger at California for a style of wine that is considered too packed with fruit, concentration, and alcohol, this could not be less true of this estate which from its beginnings has persisted with a style that is summed up by the word classical, where ripe fruit and perfume are paired with elegance and structure. In 1969 Warren Winiarski tasted home-made Cabernet Sauvignon from Nathan Fay’s vineyard in the Stag’s leap District and knew he had found a place capable of producing wines as classic and expressive as the best of Bordeaux. When the fifty acre prune orchard just next to Fay’s vineyard came up for sale he bought it and in 1972 established Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars there. He called this patch of land S.L.V. (Stag’s Leap Vineyard) and it produced the 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon which incredibly carried all before it at the famous 1976 Paris tasting and helped establish the Napa Valley as a wine region to be reckoned with. In 1986 Nathan Fay sold his Fay vineyard to the Winiarski family and now Fay and S.L.V. in their different ways together represent the pinnacle of the winery’s achievements. The best of these two opposites are combined in Cask 23 which is only produced in the best vintages. The terroir of all three of these wines combines the “water” of alluvial soils with the “fire” of weathered volcanic rock yielding concentration and structure. The heart of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is undoubtedly the estate vineyards, and extraordinary care is taken to assure that a wine’s aroma, flavor, and texture express a sense of place.
Here’s a succulent blend from Stag’s Leap. Along a shady walkway on the grounds of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars one comes across a succession of limestone plaques, each bearing a hand-print. These handprints comprise the Hands of Time exhibit, an enduring tribute to the many people who contributed to the winery’s history over the years and who have gone on to become celebrated winemakers and viticulturists in their own right. This wine is named for that exhibit. There’s no mistaking that it has pedigree as soon as you take in the bouquet with its aromas of boysenberry, fig and red currant along with hints of clove and dried fruit. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied and textured with lingering dried fruit, mixed berry flavors and hints of spice. The finish is long and supple.