Contribution of the Climate and Terrain to the Popularity of the Stags Leap Wine Region
Just off Silverado Trail you will find the main road that winds its way through Stags Leap. This is where the great majority of the wineries in Stags Leap are located. Although the area is located off Highway 29, the main thoroughfare of Napa Valley, tourists find that the wineries in this area are quite welcoming. The rather interesting name of the region can be attributed to a legend which indicates a stag leapt from the palisades in order to escape from a group of hunters.
Much of the popularity of the Stags Leap wine region can be attributed to the climate as well as the terrain in the area. The volcanic soil of the Stags Leap area is particularly well suited for the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabs produced in the Stags Leap area tend to be more restrained than many of the Cabernets grown in other regions, especially those grown in the warm northern regions.
The moderate climate of Stags Leap is due to the row of hills that run along the western border. The wind from San Pablo Bay is thus drawn up in a sort of funnel. The region is cooled as a result, permitting the acidity in the grapes to develop more fully. Interestingly enough; however, the great majority of the vineyards in Stags Leap are situated on slopes that face the west. Due to this they receive a fair amount of afternoon sun. The fruit in this region is perfectly ripened as a result, featuring clearly developed tannin. This is a characteristic that has become widely associated with the wineries in Stags Leap.
While Stags Leap, like most of the other regions in Napa Valley, struggled to gain prominence throughout the middle of the 20th century, the 1976 Paris Blind Tasting proved to be a critical turning point for Stags Leap. In fact, it has been argued that this event was the most important event in the establishment of Stags Leap wineries. Stags Leap Wine Cellars managed to achieve international acclaim when their Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon received first place and beat out numerous premier red wines from the Bordeaux region.
The Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Stags Leap has developed the nickname of the Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove. It is believed that the volcanic terrain in the region is responsible for the unique characteristics of the wines in the Stags Leap area.
The terrain in the local area can be subdivided into two distinct areas. They are the lowlands and the hills. The soils in the hills tend to be far more volcanic and are ideally suited to the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other red Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot also do quite well here. The fruit in this particular region tend to be grown in somewhat low quantities as a result of the well drained soil; however, it is quite intense.
Near the Napa River, the soil is well drained as well. In contrast to the hillside soil; however, the soil near the River is mainly made up of clay and silt. The vineyards in this region contain a high degree of alluvial volcanic sediment that has been washed down from the hills over a period of many years. As a result of this, the soils here tend to be very fertile. White varietals tend to do very well in this area including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon.