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The Wines  | The Lunch  | Winemaker Interviews | Conclusions

Left Coast Correspondent 


Tasting Notes from 
the Northern Ridge

Further Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Up the Coast
Domaine Serene, 
Domaine Drouhin
and Archery Summit

Syren Vineyards

More Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Jancis Robinson

Pax Mahle

Sean Thackrey

Robert Biale Vineyards

Havens Wine Cellars


Scott Paul Wines

Landmark Vineyards

Dashe Cellars

Tasting a Legacy
Wines of Stag's Leap

TN's From The Ridge & Beyond
Paul Draper and Monte Bello



"T" is for...
califusa ventures where the stags leap


A Day in the Dust

Premiere Napa Valley ®

Family Winemakers 02, 01, 98


Terroir. There – I’ve said it. Even though I sometimes prefer not to use the word.

It seems that there are as many definitions as there are people discussing the issue. So, with no consensus on meaning, the word becomes meaningless. The notion, however, is undeniable.

I think of it in “the total is greater than the sum of its parts” terms. I believe there can be a synergism (gee, that sounds familiar!) between a grape variety, climate and a particular piece of land that gives a wine, or a group of wines, distinctive character.

Some time ago my friend Florida Jim Cowan started calling it “a sense of place”, and that made perfect sense to me. It probably is not new, but I prefer to use that phrase now, rather than the “T word”, because there is less room for misunderstanding.

This “sense of place” that some wines communicate can express itself in different ways. For some, it is the aromatics. The “garrigue” found in some wines from the Rhône is a good example. (Some argue that the descriptor should only be used by folks who have experienced it themselves, but that’s a topic for another story.) The “cola” aromas in some Russian River Pinot Noir is another.

Certainly the “sense of place” can be expressed in a wine’s flavor profile. The earthy, mushroom flavor in Ridge Geyserville is an easy example. Or, it can be both flavor and aroma – as with “Rutherford dust”.

This search for the common thread in wines from one area has become fascinating fun for me, so I look forward to certain tastings these days – they give me the opportunity to stretch my tasting awareness, and to look for the less than obvious.

And, as I would learn, the “sense of place” that I was looking for is sometimes expressed not through aroma, not through taste, but through texture.

Far out.

The Concept

I guess there are more trade organizations in the wine industry than you could shake your stem at.  And who could blame them?

It’s no secret that the economy is leaking out the bunghole, and even the more firmly entrenched wineries are having to work harder to move their product. As a result, more exposure is the strategy.

And, I think it benefits everybody. We get the opportunity to taste more wines, and pass on to you that which we find of interest. You get to purchase with the benefit of more information – whether the opinion you value belongs to us or somebody else - or some combination.  It’s all good.

So I welcomed the invitation to the Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association tasting, where they would preview their Appellation Collection, a “Vintner’s Dozen” – one bottle each of the current and upcoming Cabernet Sauvignon releases from the 13 current Vintner members of the Association. I think it’s an interesting offer – a case+ of Cabernet Sauvignon from a single appellation. We can discuss the price issue on another occasion, but for those who have an interest (as I do) in discovering what specific regions have to offer, this is a good opportunity – one stop shopping for all your Stags Leap terroir needs.

Map courtesy of the Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association

Beginning seven miles north of the town of Napa, bounded on the north by the Yountville Crossroad, on the east by the hillsides of the Stags Leap Palisades and the Napa River to the west, the Stags Leap District encompasses less than three square miles. The 2700 acres of the District are home to 1300 acres of vineyards – predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties.

The District has a rich history that dates back to the mid 1800s, when the Silverado Trail was just that – a horse trail. One of the first wineries built was the Occidental Cellars, constructed in 1878, and now home to Regusci Winery.

There were two crucial turning points in the modern history of Stags Leap. The first was in 1961, when Napa Valley legend Nathan Fay purchased property and planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in the region. Further plantings followed as other vintners were drawn to the area. 

In 1976 the relatively unknown region gained worldwide attention with the infamous Paris tasting held by Steven Spurrier, and in 1989, the Stags Leap District received AVA designation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATTY). 

The rest is thistory.

The Wines  |  The Lunch  |  Winemaker Interviews  |  Conclusions


© Allan Bree July 2003


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