Take in Stags Leap Palisades views from tasting room and patio of Judgment of Paris Cab winner.
The winery Warren Winiarski founded in 1970 merits a pilgrimage for its place in wine history alone. In a blind tasting in 1976 now known as the Judgment of Paris, French wine critics rated the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon best in its category. The judges scored it ahead of four entries from revered Bordeaux producers and five other California wines. Winiarski’s triumph, coupled with Calistoga-based Chateau Montelena’s win for best Chardonnay, raised the Napa Valley’s profile worldwide.
The wine that fared so well in Paris came from grapes grown in the historic Stag’s Leap Vineyard (S.L.V.). Its vines, mostly replanted since the 1970s, sit beneath the craggy Stags Leap Palisades. The winery’s name and the Stags Leap District appellation, which is spelled without an apostrophe, derive from a local legend about a stag who leaped through a notch in the palisades to escape pursuing hunters.
Dazzling Visitor Center
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars owns a second famous field, the adjoining FAY Vineyard, which sits in view of the glass-and-rock FAY Outlook & Visitor. The center, designed by architect Javier Barba of Barcelona, contains exhibits describing the winery’s Paris win and subsequent history.
One Plus One Equals Three
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars makes separate S.L.V. and FAY wines, along with Cask 23, a blend from the two. Recent vintages of the three wines have received high praise from critics. The winery also makes several Winery Exclusives—available for purchase only online or at the tasting room—from its two renowned vineyards, and others from Napa Valley subappellations beyond the Stags Leap District.
The Estate Collection Tasting Flight includes S.L.V., FAY, and Cask 23 Cabernets preceded by a Chardonnay from the winery’s Arcadia Vineyard, in the Coombsville (southern Napa Valley) appellation. Other options include tastings combined with a tour of the estate and wine-aging cave (which Barba also designed).
Cellarius Kitchen Experience
For the excellent Cellarius Kitchen Experience (not offered year-round), the executive chef prepares and presents several courses paired with generous pours of the same wines and usually one or two others. Participants begin with the cave tour and learn about the winery’s history and vineyards before being seated in a private dining room with a view into the kitchen.
Why go: historic operation; wines from fabled vineyards; small-lot Cabernets available only at winery.
Napa Valley Itineraries
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2020.