Stags' Leap Winery: The Complete Review

Stags’ Leap: A Storied Past Enriches Outstanding Napa Valley Wines

This Napa Valley vineyard is located on the east side of the valley. They produced wine as far back as 1893, although a string of owners over the years has led to somewhat spotty production. Still, the site boasts a wealth of history. When paired with the vineyard’s iconic petite sirah, customary cabs, and popular red blends, it makes for a compelling reason to give the terroir a taste.

 

Here are a few things you need to know about Stags’ Leap and why it might become the most coveted label in your wine fridge.

 

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Table of Contents

A Colorful History

Stories of ghosts and mummies are sure to attract certain adventure-seeking types. Everyone wants to hear the scuttlebutt on shady dealings at a prominent vineyard or get delighted by tales of mischievous monkeys on the loose. A visit to this Napa Valley winery will deliver tall tales to suit any palate, along with a perfect wine pairing.

The Birth Of Stags' Leap

There’s some contention about how this enduring vineyard got its name. The most likely theory comes down to a local legend about a nimble stag that somehow evaded hunters by leaping across the palisades and cliffs in the area. Some iterations say the stag even leapt to its death to evade capture.

 

What’s known for sure is that the property, once called Yajome Rancho, was originally a Mexican land grant that was consolidated by the Grigsby family. Grapes were first planted in 1872.

 

In 1892, new owner Horace Chase blasted a 150-foot wine cave into existence in the rhyolite rock of the nearby palisades (the first of its type on the east side of the Napa Valley) in order to kick off wine production.

 

Failed investments left Chase bankrupt in 1909. The property was then purchased by Clarence Grange, heir to the Grange Farm Equipment Company fortune. The family stayed until 1956, continuing wine production during their tenure and turning Stags’ Leap Manor into an upscale destination resort. It was reportedly among the most popular in the region at the time.

Stags' Leap Today

After the Granges sold the property, it fell into disuse and disrepair until it was purchased in 1970 by Carl Doumani. Following a 9-year restoration of the Manor House, the Stone Winery, the vineyards, the grounds and more, Stags’ Leap was able to start producing upwards of 85,000 cases.

 

With several notable varietals and a strong following, the property was sold to Beringer in 1996. Further construction, including a 28,000-square-foot wine cave, commenced at that time.

 

Today, visitors can sample a range of reds, whites, and rosés, and tour the property to hear wild and fascinating stories of the site’s history. They can also check out the Apothecary and Sensory Garden, developed by Robert Brittan and landscape designer Jonathan Plant.

 

Stags' Leap History
Stags' Leap Owners

The Birth Of Stags' Leap

There’s some contention about how this enduring vineyard got its name. The most likely theory comes down to a local legend about a nimble stag that somehow evaded hunters by leaping across the palisades and cliffs in the area. Some iterations say the stag even leapt to its death to evade capture.

 

What’s known for sure is that the property, once called Yajome Rancho, was originally a Mexican land grant that was consolidated by the Grigsby family. Grapes were first planted in 1872.

 

In 1892, new owner Horace Chase blasted a 150-foot wine cave into existence in the rhyolite rock of the nearby palisades (the first of its type on the east side of the Napa Valley) in order to kick off wine production.

 

Failed investments left Chase bankrupt in 1909. The property was then purchased by Clarence Grange, heir to the Grange Farm Equipment Company fortune. The family stayed until 1956, continuing wine production during their tenure and turning Stags’ Leap Manor into an upscale destination resort. It was reportedly among the most popular in the region at the time.

Stags' Leap Today

After the Granges sold the property, it fell into disuse and disrepair until it was purchased in 1970 by Carl Doumani. Following a 9-year restoration of the Manor House, the Stone Winery, the vineyards, the grounds and more, Stags’ Leap was able to start producing upwards of 85,000 cases.

 

With several notable varietals and a strong following, the property was sold to Beringer in 1996. Further construction, including a 28,000-square-foot wine cave, commenced at that time.

 

Today, visitors can sample a range of reds, whites, and rosés, and tour the property to hear wild and fascinating stories of the site’s history. They can also check out the Apothecary and Sensory Garden, developed by Robert Brittan and landscape designer Jonathan Plant.

 

The Wine Cellar

The menu at Stags’ Leap is dominated by reds. However, there’s a pleasant smattering of whites and a single rosé to help to round out the appeal of this well-established winery. Here’s what to look for in terms of drinkable offerings and showstoppers.

Stags' Leap Reds

Reds are the star of the show at Stags’ Leap. The label is known for its bold, yet approachable petite sirahs and its elegant cabernet sauvignons. The menu also features, surprisingly, a red blend (the Investor Napa Valley Red Wine). It’s a perfect marriage of merlot, petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec.

 

To say that this wine is heavy and complex is gross understatement, considering that each varietal is a standalone powerhouse. Somehow, the blend of berry, spice, and floral elements creates a product that’s fresh, velvety, and acidic on the finish.

 

Aficionados are sure to love the classic varietals on their own, but The Investor is something else entirely, and one sip will tell you why it’s a fan favorite.

 

Stags' Leap Whites

California chardonnays are known for the buttery essence of oak that haunts them. The crisp white produced by Stags’ Leap, however, is aged in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak. It delivers a fresh, fruity take on the Cali classic. It could be mistaken for a pinot grigio, if you don’t know what’s what.

The sauvignon blanc runs closer to characteristic roots, with a balance of citrus, cream, and acidity that’s perfect for a scorching, summer day. The complex, floral viognier is equally refreshing, while the late harvest white blend, featuring viognier grapes fermented in neutral French oak barrels is delightfully sweet and surprisingly crisp.

Stags' Leap Rosé

Stags’ Leap currently produces only a single rosé, named after one-time owner and resident Amparo Grange. A Rhone-style wine, the dry grenache rosé has a flavor as fruity as the deep pink coloration suggests. It has aromas of strawberry and rose and a palate of red fruit and citrus. The addition of small amounts of syrah and mourvèdre explain the deep color and subtle complexities.

Visiting the Vineyard

There’s a lot to enjoy when you visit the Stags’ Leap vineyard, including a renovated manor house, a 28,000 square-foot wine cave, the Apothecary and Sensory Garden, and more.

 

Their 75-minute tasting experiences, are available by appointment Thursday-Monday. They include an intimate exploration of the property, not to mention sips of succulent Napa nectars. They also offer virtual tasting experiences that you can enjoy from the comfort of home. 

Stag's Leap Winery
Visiting Stags' Leap

Joining the Club

If you find yourself understandably smitten with the bottles of refined wines from this prominent Napa vineyard, never fear. You can have them delivered straight to your door in quarterly shipments every March, May, September, and December, simply by joining the Manor House Porch Society wine club. You’ll also save 15% on wine purchases, enjoy the ability to customize shipments and delivery dates, and gain access to exclusive wines curated expressly for members.

 

With early access to limited-quantity wines, invites to exclusive events, complimentary tastings (up to four each year), and the option to reserve the speakeasy, porch, or bocce court for private experiences, there’s a lot to love when you join the club and become a member of Stags’ Leap.

Conclusion - A Tasty Treat

There’s no shortage of exceptional California wines to sample, especially in the fabled Napa Valley. What sets Stags’ Leap apart is a blend of classic and innovative wine selections, as well as the colorful history of the vineyard itself. A bit of tasting will surely result in a few new faves — or at least a thoroughly enjoyable evening of viticultural repast with family and friends.

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