Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Guide

Updated May 11, 2022
cabernet sauvignon wine grapes at the Stags' Leap Winery

Located in the heart of Napa Valley, Stags Leap District American Viticultural Area (AVA) is home to two wineries with a similar name, Stags' Leap Winery and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Each has their own rich history in the Valley and each produces an array of quality wines, including cabernet sauvignon. Dive in to get to know their wines and see what sets these two wineries apart.

Distinguishing Between the Two Wineries

Similar names and location seem to tie these wineries together, but they are unrelated, and each has its own unique story, site, and line of wines.

Stags' Leap Winery

Stags' Leap Winery in Napa, California was established in 1893 and is one of California's oldest and most historic vineyard sites. Horace and Minnie Mizner Chase produced wine here until Prohibition. During that period, the estate continued with viticulture, sourcing its grapes to other producers. Stags' Leap Winery remained family run until 1997. Today, it is owned by Treasury Wine Estates. They continue to produce moderately-priced wines with consistent quality and character.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Founded in 1970 with its first vintage in 1972, Stags' Leap Wine Cellars produces high-quality wines at a slightly steeper price point. Known for their superior cabernet sauvignon wines, Stags' Leap Wine Cellars are thought to produce some of the best California cabs, often considered collectible. The cab sauvs from this winery have earned world-wide acclaim, winning international blind taste test competitions only four years after the winery was established. In 2007, the estate sold for $185 million dollars to Washington-based Ste. Michelle Estate and Tuscan vintner Piero Antinori.

Comparing Cabernet Sauvignons

cabernet wine grapes at the Stags' Leap Winery

Stags Leap District AVA is known for their exceptional expressions of cabernet sauvignon and both Stags' Leap Winery and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars produce numerous cab sauvs that have become fan favorites.

Stags' Leap Winery

Stags' Leap Winery produces cabernet sauvignon from their estate-grown fruit along with a few larger reaching Napa Valley cab sauvs. The estate grown wine is in a block known as The Leap. The well-drained volcanic soil produces concentrated grapes that create distinctive wines. At around $120 per bottle, the wine is relatively affordable for a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. The Leap wine features flavors of espresso, cinnamon, cassis, leather, black truffle, and blackberries with solid tannins that give it an underlying structure. Also sourced from the Leap and blended with locally sourced grapes, the Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon sells for around $65 per bottle and features notes of truffle, espresso, and dark raspberries.

In addition to these two, they make a cabernet sauvignon with fruit from Coombsville which offers a real concentrated profile and sells for about $95. Their Atlas Peak cabernet sauvignon comes from a higher elevation site and finishes with bright acidity. The Atlas Peak cab is around $95 per bottle as well.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

All four of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars cabernet sauvignon wines consistently receive high ratings from wine experts and are believed to be among the best in the world. The wines age quite well, between seven and 15 years depending on the tannins in the vintage. Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon is around $300 per bottle. This fruity cab has notes of blackberry and cassis. This remains one of the winery's most collectible wines. S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is around $195 per bottle and features mineral notes with flavors of dark fruits, caramel, and vanilla.

Fay Cabernet Sauvignon is Stags' Leap's most affordable Estate offering at about $150 per bottle. The fruit-forward wines promise to age well due to an underlying structure of tannins, and the wines feature flavors of red plum, sandalwood, and forest floor. Finally, Artemis is a high-value, affordable wine that blends both estate-grown and locally sourced grapes from different vintages. It ranges from $75-160 per bottle.

Getting to Know Their Other Wines

Both wineries offer a set of wines that reflect the regional terrior. From chardonnay to petit verdot to merlot, there are plenty to taste through in an afternoon visit.

Stags' Leap Winery

With 240 acres of vineyard, Stags' Leap Winery produces more than just cabernet sauvignon. A variety of blends and single varietals are available, and the diverse line offers a window into the history of the vineyards. A few of Stags' Leap wines include:

  • Amparo Napa Valley Rosé is a Rhône-style rosé made from grenache. A dry, bright, and beautifully saturated wine, it is full of vibrant red fruits such as cherry and raspberry.
  • Stags' Leap Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a relatively new addition to their line-up in the last few years. It is bright with notes of Meyer lemon, white peach, lime peel, jasmine and zingy ginger. The mouthwatering acidity is matched by a crisp minerality.

  • Stags' Leap Napa Valley Merlot is produced primarily from fruit grown at the original estate vineyard in Rutherford. The merlot has a concentrated profile of dark brambly fruits and allspice. Classically soft, the European oak barrels add a layer of sweet wood and espresso to the wine.
  • Stags' Leap Twelve Falls Estate Grown Napa Valley Red Wine is a blend of estate cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, and merlot. Notes of blueberry and blackberry are matched with violet and anise in this full-bodied red wine. The wine is aged in new French oak, neutral French oak, and neutral American oak prior to blending.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars offers two distinct lines of wine. The Estate Collection features 100% estate-grown fruit, while the Napa Valley collection uses primarily estate-grown fruit supplemented by a small percentage of grapes sourced from surrounding Napa Valley vineyards.

  • Arcadia Vineyard Chardonnay is fermented in a mix of barrels and stainless steel and aged in both new and old French oak. Fragrant aromas of stone fruit, honeydew melon, and jasmine lead into a delicate palate that is refreshing and bright.
  • Rancho Chimiles Semillon is 90% semillion with the last 10% as sauvignon blanc, muscat, and chardonnay. Seven months on the lees add a lovely texture to the wine. It is medium-bodied and tropical fruit forward with a hint of savoriness.
  • Winemaker Series Lot 1 Petit Verdot is fermented in stainless steel and aged in new French oak. Floral and spiced aromas lead into rich, full-bodied wine with dark fruit characteristics.
  • Winemaker Series Lot 1 Merlot is aged in new French oak and has pronounced aromas of boysenberry with bright hibiscus, cinnamon, and vanilla. It's full-bodied with structured tannins and a rich finish.

Getting to Know Stags Leap District AVA

If you're looking for quality expressions of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from this distinguished AVA, look no further than the two Stags Leap wineries. With a range of values and styles, you're sure to find a Stags Leap cab or other wine that will become one of your favorites.

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Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Guide