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Stag's Leap Wine Cellars is considered one of Napa Valley's first-growths. We were founded by Warren Winiarski and his family in 1970 and are best known for our estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons — CASK 23, S.L.V., and FAY. Over the years, our wines have become some of the most highly regarded and collected wines worldwide. They are fashioned to express classic elegance, structure, and ageability, and to reflect the place in which they are grown.
While Italian wines were Winiarski's introduction to winemaking, French wines became his inspiration. Winiarski sensed that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape was uniquely suited to the Napa Valley and believed that the right combination of soil and microclimate could produce a supple yet firm-textured version of the varietal. Although relatively few winemakers there were cultivating it at the time, Winiarski had a very clear vision. He was determined to produce wines that would be recognized as true new classics, reflecting their regional origins without being dominated by them; wines with the best elements of aroma, flavor and texture; supple and elegant. This style, which Winiarski describes as the "Golden Rectangle" approach to winemaking, balances opposing elements in classic proportions to create wines that are both dynamic and harmonious and guided his search for vineyard land.
Winiarski made a point of tasting various Cabernet Sauvignons from throughout the Napa Valley before the wines were blended together for bottling, which was the practice in those days. In 1969, Winiarski tasted Nathan Fay's homemade 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon, made from grapes grown below the rocky promontory of Stags Leap palisades, and he knew he finally had found the place where he could produce the new classic Cabernet.
A year later, Winiarski led a group of partners to acquire land adjoining the Fay property. The 44 acre property was planted to French Plum trees and to Alicanté Bouschet and Petite Sirah grape vines. It was first called Stag's Leap Vineyards(now known as S.L.V.), and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In 1972, a winery site was found close to the vineyard.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars was known only in the Napa Valley until the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting, when Winiarski's 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, the first wine produced at the new winery, bested four top-ranked Bordeaux entries, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The tasting landed Stag's Leap Wine Cellars squarely among the ranks of the world's most noteworthy Cabernet producers and placed Winiarski among the ranks of world's most respected winemakers. It also fundamentally transformed how Californian wines were viewed worldwide.
On May 24, 1976, a wine tasting took place in Paris that changed the world's view of California wines forever. The tasting was the brainchild of Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant who owned an innovative wine shop and adjacent wine school in the center of Paris. Located near the offices of IBM, many of the students at L'Academie du Vin were Americans who worked in France and were anxious to learn more about wine. Spurrier was intrigued by some of the California Cabernets and Chardonnays his students brought by the shop. Curious to see how these newcomers would fare against French wines made from the same kind of grapes, he arranged a blind wine tasting in celebration of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris. The French tasters chosen for the event had impeccable professional credentials. The French wines were First and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies. They were matched against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The tasting was blind, with the identities of the wines concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of nine tasters had voted its order of preference.
The unthinkable happened. Winiarski's 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon - his first vintage produced with grapes from vines a mere three years old - was judged the best. The Cabernet had bested four top-ranked Bordeaux, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from California bested its French counterparts.