A lot of us know Stag’s Leap District as the appellation that made history in 1976 by putting American wines front and center. At a blind tasting that became known as the “Judgment of Paris,” nine French judges awarded first place in a blind tasting to the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. It surpassed French superstar wines such as Mouton-Rothschild and Leoville Las Cases. It was the most stunning upset in wine history. Years later, history repeated itself during a reprisal of the tasting, when yet another wine from Stag’s Leap, Clos Du Val Cabernet, won the tasting.
Stag’s Leap name was supposedly inspired by a stag who successfully avoided hunters by disappearing in the district’s peaks and valleys. The first vines were planted in the18th century; sadly, the original vineyards fell victim first to Phylloxera, and then later to Prohibition. Post-Prohibition, Nathan Fay is credited with planting the first vineyards along the Silverado Trail. His were some of the first Cabernet Sauvignon planting in the United States. Fay sold fruit to Joe Heitz, who designated it as “Fay Vineyard” on his label.
A combination of volcanic and gravely soils produce fruit known for its electric intensity and lengthy, round flavors. A long growing season, with dramatic temperature swings – rapid heat early in the day that give way to cool San Pablo Bay breezes, make for a deft balance between sugar and acidity.
Cabernet Sauvignon remains the dominate variety of the Stag’s Leap District; with some Merlot, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese and Chardonnay rounding out the plantings. Here are 5 incredible wineries from the Stag’s Leap Appellation.