Thursday, 11 July 2013
A Californian Legend
I was lucky enough recently to get the opportunity to try a bottle of the 1997 Stag's Leap SLV Cabernet Sauvignon, just to confuse people, there are two producers using the name Stags Leap, they are Stags' Leap Winery and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Notice the different use of the apostrophe in the Stag's and that one uses Winery and the other uses Wine Cellars in the name, the winery I'm referring to in this is the latter of the two.
Founded in 1970 by Nathan Fay, on the Silverado Trail just as the renaissance for wine production in Napa was really starting to bloom, prohibition had reduced the number of wineries to less than 20 at this point from a peak of 140+. The winery was really brought to prominence in the controversial 1976 Paris tasting, where English wine Critic Steven Spurrier, who at the time owned a wine merchant and wine school in Paris. Curious to see how the new pretenders from America stood up to similar varietals from First and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies, he organised a blind wine tasting as part of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris. The French tasters were chosen from professionals within the french wine industry all with impeccable professional credentials.
Once all the wines had been tasted, the 9 judges added up there scores to see which wine had won, but to there horror, the unthinkable had happened, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon (the first vintage to be produced with grapes from vines that were a mere three years old) was judged to be the best, beating Bordeaux first growths such as Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion, thus propelling Stag's Leap Wine Cellars into Stardom, the Californian Chardonnay also beat the best that Burgundy could throw at it!
The SLV vineyard was originally planted in 1970 as Stag's Leap Vineyards, hence the name! Where the vines that produced the winning 1973 vintage, now produce fruit with a much greater depth of flavour, and since 1986 have been farmed in a sustainable way, using cover crops, meticulous canopy management and other natural pests to help minimise intervention as much possible.
In the glass, you got a deep red colour, with the edges starting to show an orangery/garnet colour highlighting it's age. The wine still had quite pronounced fruit aromas of cassis and plum, with some peppery spice coming through from the background, on the palate these all came through but with chocolate and leather notes added to it, combine this with a very silky texture as the tannins had mellowed in it's age, there was so much depth of flavour and complexity from the oak, fruit and it's age, which just made it an absolutely stunning drink, and i can see why it won the infamous 1976 tasting.