Known for powerful and structured wines, Stags Leap Wine District is celebrating its 30th anniversary of becoming an AVA. In honor of this milestone, the vintners gathered to share the bounties of this world-renowned growing region.

There are many reasons to celebrate this American Viticultural Area that was awarded in 1989 but grape-growing is certainly not new. Records of plantings date back to the 1800s. The first Cabernet Sauvignon plantings were in charge of visionary Nathan Fay, who in 1961 pioneered this grape that makes this part of the the world so famous.

It’s worth noting that the Stags Leap District AVA has the smallest output of grapes than any other of the 16 Napa Valley sub-AVAs.

Now let’s think about some of the events that have put America, more specifically Napa Valley, wine on the map. Of course, we’re talking about the 1976 Paris tasting organized by Steven Spurrier.

During this tasting one wine in particular that outshined the others was from this area, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, which took the first place. Ten years later, the 1972 Clo Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon also from Stags Leap Wine District took the highest honors.

Having long established its reputation, this AVA raises the flag high when it’s tasted alongside its Napa neighbors. Talking to vintner Donald Patz about his newest Cabernet Sauvignon project, he said “I had a vision of starting a Cabernet Sauvignon project and in my mind it had to come from Stags Leap District AVA.” He added, “It is without a doubt one of the most balanced and generous areas within the Napa Valley”

As part of the celebration, I had the pleasure of attending a walk around the vineyard, led by Kirk Grace, whose experience extends for decades in the valley where he has worked with a variety of wineries, including Robert Sinskey Vineyards. He has been with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars since 2006.

The walk culminated with a compelling retrospective flight in the vineyards. (The best location to taste is amongst the vines that give birth to the wine itself.)

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The wines consisted of a flight of the famous Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon starting with the 1993, which showed wisdom, complexity and notes of balsamic, ready to drink and delicious.

Next was the acclaimed 2012 vintage, which shows graceful aging with an elegant balance of fruit and tannin, where the just released 2016 was wound tight and could probably sit for a couple years before jumping to play.

Other components of the celebration included a seminar on The First Families of Stags Leap, lead by Alison Steltzner from Steltzner Vineyards.

Also, 40 attendees got to enjoy Winemaker Wisdom panel, led by Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast Magazine with renowned winemakers like Chris Tynan of Cliff Lede Vineyards, Celia Welch of Lindstrom Vineyards, Jeff Owens of Odette Estate Winery and Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock Winery.

The biggest event of the weekend was the 30th anniversary luncheon at Stags’ Leap Winery, which gathered 17 of the Stags Leap District AVA producers, who brought out some tasty bottles to share. Standouts included the 2018 Quixote Rose of Petite Sirah, with a zippy and cleansing profile and hints of red berries and watermelon rind, and the 1996 Steltzner Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, which was full of red roses, lilacs, tobacco and winter spice.

Also, from a smaller producer was the 2012 Lindstrom Cabernet Sauvignon with depth, black fruit and finesse with stern tannins.

All in all, an incredible array of wines; it’s hard to pick favorites when you have Regusci, Cliff Lede, Clo Du Val, Silverado Vineyards and Chimney Rock, just to name a few. Cheers to you Stags Leap Wine District AVA on your anniversary and many decades of excellent wines.

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Eduardo can be reached at eduardo@sakedrinker.com.