Monday, October 12, 2009

Wine Country - Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Life turns on a dime. Warren Winiarski, a college professor in the US, bought a 50 acre plot of ranch in Napa in 1970 and turned that into a vineyard. A bottle of his very first vintage (1973) won the now famous 1976 Judgement of Paris against some of the most prestigious red wines from Bordeaux including Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Haut Brion. The competition was organized by a British wine merchant, Steven Spurrier, who wasn't selling any Californian wines and didn't think Californian wines would win. Mr Winiarski kept the winery running until August 2007 when he sold Stag's Leap Wine Cellars to a consortium of Chateau St Michel and the Antinori family of Italy for US$185m!!

A renew interest in Judgement of Paris was developed by the movie Bottle Shock, a dramatized version of the event. If you look at the actual score, the difference between Stag's Leap and Mouton-Rothschild was very small, 0.05 point. So for a competition with eleven judges grading each wine out of 20 points with no predetermine grading guidelines, 0.05 point difference was a real flip of a coin. But this coin flip was perhaps the best marketing tool for Stag's Leap for over 20 years.

Mum signed up for the vintage release party for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, the only other item in their itinerary which was pre-booked other than the dinners and accommodation in San Francisco. The estate is located along the Silverado Trail. It has an artfully built decent size man-made lake with a running creek of running water. You know it's man-made as soon as you see the color of the water which is turquoise blue. Dad knows the color well. It's the dye to stop the growth of algae in ponds. Still it's beautiful.

The event provided the tastings of the 3 latest vintage releases, Fay, SLV and Cask 23 in the beautiful surrounding of the estate. They also got a tour around the estate including going into the wine cellar inside the man-made caves and a taste of the freshly picked wine grapes. The caves were deep inside the hill and extended in different directions and there's even a banquet hall inside for special occasions. The ripen wine grapes were small and very sweet.

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