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Celebrate National Wine Day Everyday at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

When Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars released their 2020 FAY & S.L.V. wines, they invited wine club members and fans to taste the new vintages while strolling in the vineyards. Director of Vineyard Operations Kirk Grace and Winemaker Luis Contreras led the way. Rows of budding grapes were waving in a cool breeze on a hot day at the historic FAY vines.

The group stopped five times to taste some new releases and a few beautiful old ones, before an al fresco lunch under a canopy of ancient oak trees. Everyday is National Wine Day at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Kirk has been managing the winery for 17 years, and winemaker Luis has worked at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars for 26 years. Luis worked his way up the ranks in bottling, cellar worker and later Cellar Master. He works closely with Winemaker Marcus Notaro and Kirk Grace to craft some of the most elegant Napa Valley wines.

When Luis visits the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars vineyards, he inspects the different growing stages of the vines and grapes to evaluate their performance. His expert palate in wine tastings along with Notaro’s, follows the progress of every lot during the aging process.

As the Cellar Master, Luis continues to oversee all cellar and bottling operations too. “Being part of something that changes people’s lives. Wine is a living thing, it expresses the varietal characteristic, the growing region and winemaking techniques that are used. It involves many people working together towards one goal. Wine has the potential to create unforgettable memories and being part of that is priceless,” said Luis.

Guests sipped a glass of Elia Rose’ made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Fay Block 1. The aroma of this light pink wine offered notes of strawberry, with hints of pink lemonade and watermelon. This bright wine offers refreshing acidity, with cranberry and cherry that lingers on the finish. Retailing for $45, this wine is ideal in the late spring to fall to pour during a backyard lunch or dinner.

Legend for the name of the region is of a large stag standing at the V notch of the rocky hill on the highest promontory. Seeing hunters approaching, he leapt to safety on the other side to evade his demise.

This is a sacred area and the spirit of the stag resides today. It was designated the Stags Leap District (AVA), and the terroir is ideal for certain varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. ‘Every vineyard has a story,’ said Luis.

According to Kirk Grace, ‘Warren Winiarski, a former college professor turned winemaker met Nathan Fay in 1969. When Fay offered him some handmade wine, he said ‘the room was filled with beautiful aromas.’ After a stint at Robert Mondavi winery, he purchased 40 acres to grow grapes and started making wine.

His 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, won a blind tasting by French sommeliers and restaurant owners in Paris during the American bicentennial in 1976. The judges blindly tasted top quality California Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, as well as French Boudeaux wines. To everyone’s surprise Stag’s Leap won. This not only enhanced Stag’s Leap reputation, but that of Napa Valley and California as well. Another surprise was that the wine was made from one year old vines.

The winning bottle is displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It’s one of 101 artifacts proudly made in the United States.

Tasting the 2018 HEART OF FAY Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s made with 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The fruity and bright aromatics offered dark berries and cherry, with hints of rose petal. The lush texture lingers with berry and a touch of cedar.

Made from the original blocks, the grapes grow in soil that produces different characteristics of the wines from the grapes growing higher on the hill. The red soil is younger, while the older soil darker with deeper roots for water absorption and more fertility. The berry rich flavor of the wine has structure.

The terrior is slightly different on the hill, as the volcanic ridge breaks down soil due to weather elements providing more minerality.  Cabernet grapes like to grow during hot days and cool nights. They call this the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ in growing.

2018 FAY HILLSIDE grows higher up the hill offering a beautiful classic aroma the dark fruit with hints of ripe cherry, and a touch of hazelnut and salted caramel. When sipped this wine on the mid palate is less bright than the HEART OF FAY, but persistent in rich texture with fine tannins and notes of cocoa and coffee on the structured finish. A bottle retails for $155.

Guests lucky to taste the 1987 S.L.V. cabernet Sauvignon appreciated how these grapes grow on vines that were planted in the 1970s. This bottle offers a dark fruit aroma, with slight salinity and flintiness with a briny black olive essence. It retails for $1,100 a bottle, as does the 2016 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It’s a rich and complex wine offering aromas of currents, violets and dusty cocoa powder. The gorgeous mouthfeel produces hints of dark stone fruit with a touch of graphite on the finish.

After the tour, guests appreciated the pleasing arorma of barbeque as they approached long tables under trees with views of the vineyard.

The lunch started with a pour of 2021 ARCADIA Vineyard Chardonnay a Little Gems Lettuce salad. This soft and elegant wine on the nose offers a balance of lemon and minerality with minimum oak and malic acid.

A buffet table was lined with plates of tender overnight Texas style brisket, large Memphis dry rub chicken thighs, North Carolina pulled pork, and hot smoked wild king salmon. Warm potato salad had capers, chopped celery and tarragon dressed in fennel and apple cider. Pan roasted green beans, and black velvet-vella Jack Mac and Cheese were pure comfort food for the body and soul.

2020 FAY Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2020 S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon were poured throughout the lunch.

The wine country lunch finished with a lovely polenta cake topped with sweet berries.

Guests learned that Marchesi Antinori bought the winery, the brand and inventory, plus 300 acres of Napa vines, including the Fay and S.L.V. vineyards. He will continue to employ the stellar winemaking staff that make unique, elegant, fruity Stag’s Leap Cabernet and other wines. Stag’s Leap produces roughly 150,000 cases per year.

Next time you are in Napa Valley make a reservation to participate in one of many immersive tastings throughout the year.

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