Stags' Leap Winery
Kathy and Terry Sullivan
Summary: Imagine being allowed to amble throughout a 19th century manor house. Visitors to Stags' Leap Winery can wander through the manor house and on the second floor spend time reading the history of the winery. Visitors to the winery must have a reservation. Enjoy a lovely trip to Stags' Leap Winery as you travel tree shaded side roads and drive between acres of vineyards.
Stags’ Leap is the original winery with a stag and leap combination. According to a winery brochure, the winery was named after, “…an ancient American Indian legend of a mystical stag leaping across crags of the palisades to the east….” Stags’ Leap Winery is located in the center of Stags Leap District AVA.
Stags' Leap Winery, dating back to 1893, was started by Horace Chase and Minnie Mizner Chase. In the late 1800’s the winery was producing 40,000 gallons of wine.The outside walls of the castle-like house are of stone that was locally quarried. The stone tower added a dramatic look to the manor. Stags’ Leap Winery had one of the earliest caves in the eastern section of the valley.
The winery was shut down in 1909 when it was sold. In 1913, Frances and Clarence Grange purchased the property and by 1917 had renovated the property into a vacation resort. In 1927 the United States Governement placed a post office in the manor house called the Stags' Leap Post Office. During WWII the house was used for R & R for military officers. By the 1960’s the house was boarded up. The property was purchased in 1971 by Carl and Joanne Doumani, who renovated the manor house. The property changed hands in 1997 when Beringer Wine Estates purchased it. Today the house is meticulously kept and open for guests to browse.
Today, a large wrap-around porch with rattan furniture and matching pillows provides a delightful and shady spot to sit and enjoy the gardens and vineyards. A pleasant breeze flows across the porch.
The vineyards consist of 85 acres of vineyards mostly planted with Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. The winery produces 85,000 cases of wine. Much of the wines are available in restaurants. Stags’ Leap produces two labels for their wines. The black label is for the estate wines and the white label is for wines that are sourced from Napa Valley vineyards.
Wine Tasting Experience
The winery offers visitors a refined tasting experience inside the large manor house along with a delightful tour to the winery property. Two rooms in the manor house are set aside for tastings. The warm ambiance of the rooms and the Riedel glassware reflects a respect for the wines created here. Reservations are required. During the tasting, the wine consultant guides the guests through the tasting. There is plenty of time to talk to the other guests at the table. After the tasting, visitors are encouraged to take their glasses with them for the tour of the winery and grounds.
Our group was led to the winery whose outside resembles an old mission. Inside large oak tanks provide contrast to stainless steel tanks. Stained glass windows provide an old world ambiance. Barrels aging wine sat silently in the caves. Because it was harvest season, our group then proceeded to the vineyard. The area we entered had already been harvested. A few grapes and raisins were left on the vine and we were encouraged to taste them.
Chardonnay 2006 offered an aroma of apples and citrus. The taste was of apple, citrus and had yellow stone fruit nuances. The finish was crisp with a long fruit aftertaste. Napa Valley Gypsy Camp 2006 was a blend of 57 percent Syrah, 19 percent Grenache, 16 percent Mourvedre and 8 percent Carignane. The wine was a ruby color. There were raspberry and black cherry notes on the aroma. The taste was also of raspberries and black cherries with spice nuances. The finish had tannins and a chewy fruit texture. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon White Label 2006 offered an aroma and taste of blackberries with a hint of pepper. The finish had bold tannins with a long fruit aftertaste. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the Leap 2005 was a ruby color. The aroma was of blackberries with a hint of chocolate. The taste had blackberry nuances. The finish offered bold tannins with a chewy and long fruit aftertaste. Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2006 was a dark purple color. The aroma and taste were of plums and black fruit. The crisp finish had bold tannins and was fruity.
Visitors are welcome to the winery if they have secured a reservation. The tasting and tour are relaxing so plan on a couple of hours. The next time you are looking at a restaurant wine list, look for Stags’ Leap Wines.
Stags’ Leap Winery
6150 Silverado Trail
Napa, California 94558
GPS: N38º 24.821’ W122º 19.268’
Visit these California organizations and wineries that partner with Wine Trail Traveler.