The Stags Leap District may be the smallest sub-appellation in Napa Valley, but it’s arguably the most famous, especially when we’re discussing Cabernet Sauvignon. As this is one of the coolest zones in Napa Valley – fog rolls through the vineyards most days, limiting sunshine hours – the examples of Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District are among the most elegant and supple of all from Napa.
It’s this harmony and approachability when the wines are young that are so appealing to consumers and critics alike; unlike other sub-appellations in the valley, the wines here don’t need a decade before they settle down. Yet, the classic Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is structured for 15-25 years of aging in the best vintages, just as with the rest of Napa Valley.
Today, sixteen wineries comprise the Stags Leap District (along with some grower members and a few wineries from outside the district that own vineyards here), and a special assortment of one Cabernet Sauvignon from each of these producers is assembled in the Appellation Collection that is available for $2250 (including ground shipping). The latest collection features the 2019 vintage and was initially offered for sale on October 15 and will be available until December 14 of this year; as you can imagine, this is a limited availability set of wines. Producers include some of the most famous names in all of Napa Valley, such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Stags’ Leap Winery (note the placement of the apostrophe in their names; the District itself is Stags Leap, with no apostrophe); Shafer, Clos du Val and Pine Ridge.
For consumers that want an even more in-depth look at the Stags Leap District, the annual Vineyard to Vintner weekend will be held at the member wineries from April 20-23, 2023. Events during these three days include special tastings and lunches as well as tours of specific vineyards as well as a session about the history and terroir of this remarkable area.
Tickets for this event went on sale November 1 and are priced at $1250 per person. For more information on purchasing the Appellation Collection and/or the Vineyard to Vintner tour, click here.
I was able to taste four of the wines from the 2019 Appellation Collection. Here are my tasting notes (each of these wines is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon):
Clos du Val Hirondelle Vineyard – Established in 1972, Clos du Val is one of the most highly acclaimed estates in the district. The Hirondelle Vineyard is located at the Clos du Val winery; the name of the site is derived from a word in French describing migratory swallows. Bright, medium-deep purple; appealing aromas of black currant, sweet black plum and a hint of vanilla. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this has layers of ripe Cabernet fruit on the palate, very good acidity, velvety tannins and a lengthy, fruit-driven finish; the harmony is impeccable. There is classic Stags Leap District character on display with this wine. Peak in 15-18 years. (94)
Malk Family Vineyards – Malk Family Vineyards, located in the central eastern sector of the Stags Leap District, is one of the smallest properties in the appellation. Deep, intense purple; aromas of black molasses, black plum, black cherry and a hint of myrtle. Medium-full, this is quite rich on the palate, and there is impressive ripeness. The tannins are velvety, as is typical in this district, while there is a touch of iron minerality in the finish; this is a bit atypical for the Stags Leap District, yet this quality renders this wine that much more distinctive. Peak in 12-15 years. (92)
Baldacci Family Vineyards “Black Label” – Established in 1988, Baldacci is indeed a family estate, with Thomas and Brenda Baldacci as proprietors, and Michael Baldacci as the winemaker, Medium deep purple; aromas of black cherry, black plum and hints of bitter chocolate and black currant. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this has a layered mid-palate and a finish with great persistence; the tannins are quite rich, yet silky, and the wine finishes with notes of dark chocolate and a note of graphite. There is very good acidity and the oak notes are beautifully integrated. For Michael Baldacci, this wine is a classic “iron fist in a velvet glove” style of Cabernet Sauvignon the Stags Leap District is famous for. So appealing now paired with leg of lamb, but this will reveal greater elegance and character over the next several years; peak in 15-18 years. (95)
Lindstrom – Greg and Carol Lindstrom are the owners here, with Celia Welch as winemaker. One of the smallest of the district wineries, this is the only Cabernet Sauvignon produced each vintage. Bright, intense purple; aromas of black cherry, clove, licorice and black peony. Medium-full, this is a plush, lush Cabernet Sauvignon with broad shoulders. There is very good acidity, backed by medium-full silky tannins so typical of the Stags Leap District, and there is excellent persistence. Beautifully made, this could be enjoyed tonight, but this will reveal greater depth and character with another 4-7 years in the bottle; peak in 15-18 years. (94)