Tag Archives: Stags’ Leap

Expensive wine 199: Stags’ Leap Chardonnay 2017

stags' leap chardonnayThe Stags’ Leap chardonnay may be the best value among expensive wines I’ve tasted in years

This California white wine may be the best value for any domestic white wine costing more than $25 I’ve tasted in years. It’s certainly the best value in California chardonnay: It tastes like Napa Valley, where the grapes are from. It tastes like chardonnay, and not a tub of butter. And it’s only going to get better with age, truly amazing given its price.

Much of the credit for the quality for the Stag’s Leap chardonnay ($30, sample, 14.2%) goes to winemaker Christophe Paubert, whose approach is focused on the grapes, and not getting on the cover of the Wine Spectator. Hence, a wine that isn’t over oaked, isn’t hot, and isn’t stuffed full of winemaking tricks. “I’m not that kind of winemaker,” he said during lunch in Dallas last month.

Instead, Paubert worked with what the grapes gave him, and the result is a chardonnay that is fresh and bright, with crisp green apple fruit intertwined with a little lemon zest. It’s rich and full in the mouth, but not oaky and toasty, and it finishes with a certain sort of minerality one doesn’t taste much anymore in California chardonnay. Yes, there is oak, but it’s in the background, supporting everything else.

Highly recommended, and especially for Mother’s Day next month. This would pair especially well with something like crab and shrimp stuffed fish, or even a classic French dish like sole in a simple white wine sauce.

Winebits 461: Stags Leap lawsuit, restaurant wine, wine history

 stags leap lawsuitThis week’s wine news: Big Wine and the new Stags Leap lawsuit, plus buying cheap restaurant wine and wine’s history

One more time: One of the great wine lawsuits was Napa’s Stag’s Leap vs. Napa’s Stags’ Leap, which was settled 30 years when a court ordered the apostrophes you see in this sentence. Now, the two sides, each owned by Big Wine, are suing each other over the stag in their names — the return of the Stags Leap lawsuit. Stag’s Leap, owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle, is suing Stag’s Leap, owned by Australia’s Treasury, claiming that a new Treasury wine called The Stag infringes on its name. Treasury says The Stag has nothing to do with Stag’s Leap or Stags’ Leap, and is actually taken from an Australian winery. Where is Monty Python when we need them?

The cheapest: We’re not the only ones fed up with high restaurant wine prices. British food critic Jay Rayner, reports The Telegraph newspaper, says we “should only buy house wine in restaurants in protest at complex and overpriced wine lists,” and that “expensive wines should only ever be bought in shops and enjoyed at home.” Which sounds like a fine plan, and something I have mostly done for years. Rayner, speaking at a literary festival, said he was eating at one of London’s most chi-chi restaurants: “I asked the waiter if he could find me a bottle of pinot noir for under £50 (US$61). He looked at me as if I was some kind of scum on his heel and he couldn’t so I then called him back and said, ‘there’s one for £49, you didn’t even know your own wine list.’ ”

The oldest? Archaeologists have found a 6,100-year-old winery in a cave in the Armenian mountains, making it perhaps the oldest winery in the world. The researchers found a drinking bowl, a grape press, a cup, and fermentation jars in the republic, which borders Turkey and Iran near the Black Sea. The India Times reported that UCLA’s Gregory Areshian, the co-director of the excavation, said the wine made there may be similar to a modern unfiltered red wine and may have had a similar taste to a merlot. Yes, but Areshian didn’t answer the most important question: How many points did the wine get?

Expensive wine 51: Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010

Stags' Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010One of the the things that California winemakers rarely have to worry about is weather. It ?s almost always ideal for growing grapes, and is one reason why the technical quality of California wine is the best in the world. Never a flaw, never a missed beat.

That wasn ?t the case in 2010, which was unusually cool and even wet. This meant that winemakers couldn ?t let the fruit stay on the vine until it ripened and then ripened some more, the process that helps produce the telltale richness and fruitiness that expensive California wine is famous for.

Some winemakers made up the difference with their bag of tricks; I ?ve tasted reds and even whites with high alcohol and extracted fruit from the 2010 vintage, which wasn ?t supposed to happen. But we need to get those scores, don ?t we?

And then there are wines like the Stag ?s Leap ($53, sample, 13.9%), which tastes like one would expect given the weather: less fruity and less rich (though, in keeping with the winery ?s style, still reasonable alcohol levels). It smells like typical Napa Valley cabernet, fruity and spicy, but it doesn ?t taste like it. The black fruit is subdued and the tannins are subtle and stay well in the back. The wine lacks a red Bordeaux ?s earthiness, but tasting this blind might confuse more than one person.

This is red meat wine for Father ?s Day — and especially for dads who don ?t judge wine before they taste it or expect all pricey California reds to taste the same every time. Vintage difference is not necessarily a bad thing.

More about Father ?s Day wine:
? Father’s Day wine 2013
? Father’s Day wine 2012
? Expensive wine 44: Patricia Green Yamhill County Pinot Noir 2010

Mini-reviews 29: Stag’s Leap, Flat Creek, Le Grand Nor, De Bortoli

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:

? Stag's Leap Merlot 2004 ($35, sample): Cleaning out the wine cellar, and found this gorgeous, beautiful wine. Tastes like Napa, with deep, luscious black fruit, but with other qualities that make for a wonderful wine, including a long chalky finish and a full, rich middle.

? Flat Creek Estate Pinot Grigio 2010 ($18, purchased): Texas white wine that sits between tonic Italian pinot grigio (has more lemon) and fruit forward Oregon pinot gris. There was something odd in the back that bothered me, but may not bother anyone else. And it would be a better value at $14 or $15.

? Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2009 ($8, purchased): French white with too much badly done fake oak and without enough fruit to cover up the oak. Not very interesting one way or the other.

? De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc Emeri NV ($11, sample): Very odd, but intriguing, Australian bubbly made with sauvignon blanc. Sweet tropical fruit but not as much citrus as one would expect. Less tight and bubbly than cava, but not as soft as some Italian sparklers. Keep in mind for the holidays.

Mini-reviews 23: Shoofly, Primaterra, Stag’s Leap, Bella Sera

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Shoofly The Freckle 2008 ($14, sample): This Australian white Rhone blend is starting to show its age, but does have pleasant honey floral aroma, sweet apple fruit at the back, and a peach pit finish.

? Primaterra Primitivo 2008 ($10, purchased): This Italian red has an Old World beginning and a sweetish black fruit New World-style back. There's nothing really wrong with it, but it's not the Layer Cake.

? Stag's Leap Artemis 2003 ($40, sample): This is classic and elegant Napa cabernet sauvignon at a time when consumers expect trendy and pushy Napa cabernet. That those consumers don't appreciate it is their loss.

? Bella Sera Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Simple, decent, and surprisingly pleasant Italian white wine. This won't offend anyone, which is saying a lot for pinot grigio at this price.