WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

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WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Brian K Miller » Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:57 pm

I know I am a sucker and a fool to pay the tasting fee at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. The problem is, I LOVED all four wines.

2005 Estate Chardonnay was just beautiful. Piercing lemon and citrus and peach flavors with racy acidity and a hinto of well-managed oak. Simply beautiful Chardonnay. 19 points.


2004 Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Another very nice wine. Lovely currant and raspberry fruit with some leather and tobacco notes already (this is a 2004) coming to a fore. In the Jancis Robinson thread, the idea of "herbaceoussness as being refreshing" was mentioned. This was a refreshing cab, with a medium light weight I loved. 17.5 points


2004 SLV Vineyard. A little richer, with more tobacco notes really dominant! I love the house style here! 18 points

2004 Cask 23. I know the price is insane, but geezou, this Cab, even so raw and young, has to rank up in the top 10 California wines of all time for me. Darker fruit, with blackberry, cassis. A little bit of chocolate, but the tobacco, herbs, and leather notes are even more evident. Still, this wine just seems so balanced, so elegant-it doesn't taste like a hedonistic gobs of fruit wine at all. What would 10 years do for the wine? 19 points plus.

I know the prices are insane and there is a bit of an attiditude (I showed up in cycling clothes, as I was doing one of my rides), but I just love these wines. If I had the money, I would buy a mixed case of all four!
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Keith M » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:38 am

Brian K Miller wrote:I know I am a sucker and a fool to pay the tasting fee at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars . . .

2004 Cask 23. I know the price is insane . . .

I know the prices are insane . . .


I apologize for my ignorance, but would you mind sharing what insane prices and tasting fees Stag's Leap charges? I know of the producer (vaguely) by reputation, but don't follow them closely enough to know just how insane their prices are . . .
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Gary Barlettano » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:18 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:I know the prices are insane and there is a bit of an attiditude (I showed up in cycling clothes, as I was doing one of my rides), but I just love these wines. If I had the money, I would buy a mixed case of all four!

Was that the $15.00 or the $40.00 tasting, Brian? The SLD is a really pretty stretch of road and I do enjoy wandering around there myself. And I guess my tastes have been Califortified, but I, too, have found many a wine made there to be outstanding. Still in all, I am much too crotchety, cantankerous and just plain cheap to pay the prices those folks want for their wines.
And now what?
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Brian K Miller » Fri Nov 09, 2007 6:22 pm

The $40. Last year it was $25. :evil:

Napa has really been cranking up the sucker the tourists efforts over the past year. I can almost....almost...... justify the $40 for Stag's Leap, 'cause it was so beautiful. There is no way in hell I could justify the $20 I paid at Cliff Lede for medicore greenish Cabernets (in 2004? How in the hell did they make thin, under-ripe Cabs in 2004? :cry: ). Not sure about Del Dotto. At least they are really friendly, but the wines are pretty austere. A lot of the boutique wineries are now pushing $20 for reserve tastings-including for wines that are not worth it.

At this point, I've got my wine clubs (Hess, Elizabeth Spencer, William Harrison, and Beringer) that I probably don't need to pay tasting fees any more. Still...there are wines out there that I want to try, and unless one lucks out at a good wine shop....


Gary: I'm not sure I find Stag's Leap wines all that typical of California. They are certainly not the vanilla milkshake or fruit bombs I am used to. They are quite different, even, than their neighbors on the Trail. As much as I like Chimney Rock, for example, Chimney Rock really does emphasize the fruit flavors, whereas Stag's Leap seems to focus on other things (the leather, the earth, the tobacco). I'm not saying one is "right," but I do love SLWC a lot.
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Max Hauser » Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:31 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:... Gary: I'm not sure I find Stag's Leap wines all that typical of California. They are certainly not the vanilla milkshake or fruit bombs I am used to. ... Stag's Leap seems to focus on other things (the leather, the earth, the tobacco). I'm not saying one is "right," but I do love SLWC a lot.

Brian, this shines a sharp spotlight on historical shifts in California wine in the recent decades. When I was getting interested in California wines in the middle 1970s vintages, Stag's Leap was considered by the wine writers (I still have them on file) representative of artisanal California Cabernets.* It's sometimes hard to explain now, with today's California market, how California reds emerged to international prominence with what are now called "old-world" styles. These wines entered a US retail market that bought measurably less wine per capita than today. Hardcore wine consumers, what we'd now call wine geeks, took old-world wines as the standard -- those consumers bought first-growth Bordeaux for example, which also were much more affordable. I met many of those consumers in the 1970s, saw their sensibilities and collections. In those days, US buying habits were less evenly distributed across price levels -- consumers seemed to buy either bulk wines and modest varietals, or else the high end. That high end with its old-world prototypes was what artisanal California wineries aimed at: Stag's Leap, Heitz, etc.; in the 1950s and 1960s Inglenook (very unlike later wines under that label) with its legendary, ageworthy reds. They succeeded -- witness the famed international showings of these wines at the 1976 Spurrier tasting and the larger and more decisive Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad slightly later.

Buzzwords like fruit bomb, "cult wine" and "old-world vs. new world" came later, mostly starting in the 1990s. Therefore if California reds do increasingly depart from "new-world" styles, as mentioned in another thread, that's less a new direction than a return to their forerunners.

--
In 2006 there was discussion of how some California wineries still produce "classic" Cabernets and were doing so 30 years ago; in some cases prices had risen only modestly beyond inflation. Here's the MSNBC version of some data (the SLV mentioned is the 1977 vintage):
Longtime Napa lover Max Hauser crunched the numbers and determined that many of these wines haven't witnessed the price spikes common to so-called “cult” Napa Cabs. Hauser says that, 25 years ago, he paid $8 for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. and $12 for Clos du Val. Factoring in a “nominal inflation factor (CPI) of 2.23 since 1981,” he wrote, those prices would be $18 and $27. “Obviously some old-school Cabernets have risen more, but not always much.”
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Brian K Miller » Fri Nov 09, 2007 11:41 pm

Thanks, Max. I'm interested in your opinion as to some other "classic style" producers? I've heard Schlumberger mentioned. To a degree, Clos Du Val. Ggrich Hills' Yountville maybe????? Have you tried Smith Madrone? I think Farella-Park tries for a more balanced style.
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Cynthia Wenslow » Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:07 am

Brian, I'm not Max, but we quite like Smith-Madrone's Cabs. I don't drink enough California Cabs to compare theirs to the rest though.

But you'd have a hell of a time getting up to their place on your bike! :?
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Mark Lipton » Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:26 am

Brian K Miller wrote:Thanks, Max. I'm interested in your opinion as to some other "classic style" producers? I've heard Schlumberger mentioned. To a degree, Clos Du Val. Ggrich Hills' Yountville maybe????? Have you tried Smith Madrone? I think Farella-Park tries for a more balanced style.


Brian, I'm not Max (except on Tuesdays) but here's my list of "classic" CalCab producers:

Chateau Montelena
Dunn Napa and Howell Mountain
Ridge Monte Bello
Joseph Phelps (at least up to '01)
Corison
Laurel Glen
Sullivan

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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Brian K Miller » Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:51 am

Thanks! I did like Sullivan, and I am sitting on a 2001 Corison. I need to try Smith Madrone.

I rode my bicycle once over Spring Hill Road. That was (nevermind) pounds and 15 years ago. :)
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Brian Gilp » Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:50 am

I am sitting on a 2001 Corison


If this ages like the 94 we opened early this week (from magnum) you have a long time to wait. The 94 had plenty of life left in front of it. Second day showed as well as the first. Unfortuntately it did not make it to a day three. Only complaint I had on the 94 was it was still a little too primary. I seem to recall that the 97 was a little more evolved and showing more complexity when I drank up my last bottle about a year ago.
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Max Hauser » Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:48 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:Thanks, Max. I'm interested in your opinion as to some other "classic style" producers? I've heard Schlumberger mentioned. To a degree, Clos Du Val. Ggrich Hills' Yountville maybe?????

Below is my full memo from which the earlier excerpt appeared on MSNBC. This names (and prices) California Cabernets long produced, generally in consistent style and sometimes without vast price increase. Maybe the flagship example is the Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet, produced since the early 1960s, selling in pre-arrival order, recent vintages, for around $65 (vs. current-dollar estimate of $33 for the $15 I actually paid in 1981 on the same pre-arrival terms, for the 1980 vintage). Note that this Cabernet long predates most mailing-list and "cult" wines and was a star at both the 1976 Paris tasting I mentioned above and its re-enactment last year.

--
25 or more years ago, US wine writers grumbled about a trend to double-digit California Cabernet prices. Another digit has crept in since then.

About 25 years ago (I just checked) I paid $8 for current-release Stag's Leap "Stag's Leap Vineyard" Napa Cabernet, $9 for Raymond, $12 for Clos du Val, and $19 for BV "Georges de Latour Private Reserve," 1976 (which by the way, drank excellently a year ago). Also $15.00 for Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet (ordered pre-release), which isn't from Napa, but is inseparable from leading old-school California Cabernets.

With a nominal inflation factor (CPI) of 2.23 since 1981, equivalent 2006-dollar prices above would be $18, $20, $27, $42, and $33. Obviously some old-school Cabernets have risen more, but not always much. (The Ridge for example has been twice the 1981 price, inflation-adjusted.)

Current "old-school" California Cabernets that you enjoyed continue the tradition of the 1935 Simi, 1955 Inglenook (already legendary 25 years ago), 1970 BV Georges de Latour, 1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard. In contrast the "cult" wines appearing since the 1990s, that sell for hundreds of dollars even without much aging track record, are a distinct group of products with different appeal.
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Re: WTN: Brief visit to Stag's Leap

Postby Max Hauser » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:05 pm

I might as well add a few more Cabernet examples from the same era (with prices paid); most of these continued in production, at least for some time.

1975 Mondavi (Napa), $12
1976 Rutherford Hill (Napa), $6.80
1977 BV "Rutherford" (BV's middle label), $4.40
1978 William Hill (Napa), $11.90
1978 Obester (Sonoma), $8.50

Jordan was also very good in the middle 1970s (its first vintages) and priced around $8.

Robin, if you're reading this you might be amused to note that the computer file format in which I stored this information at the time (as a plain text file) is incompatible with tools I use today (an extreme example of software incompatibility, in today's Talkshoe discussion) whereas the paper print-out of course remains readable.
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