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by Fred McMillin
for November 21, 2000

 

Overmatched


Prologue

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars1964—A lecturer in Greek classics at the University of Chicago, Warren Winiarski, loaded his wife and family into an old station wagon and drove to the Napa Valley to make wine.

Nine years later, 1973, he made his Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, which would be entered against France's best at a tasting in France with French judges. Warren's wine was overmatched.


The Results

3rd—1970 Chateau Haut-Brion (France)
2nd—1970 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (France)
1st—Impossible. It was Warren's 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon!

That was May 24, 1976. Barbara Winiarski recalls the phone started ringing...and it has never really stopped.

Clearly, the reputation of the winery's reds was established. In fact, the tasting was repeated in 1978 and the Stag's won again.


Winiarski Whites

After their arrival the Winiarskis selected and had planted 33 acres of Cabernet and 5 of Merlot in what would become the Stags Leap Wine District. Magnificent for reds.

As for whites, in 1983 Warren went south. He began purchasing Chardonnay fruit from the cooler southeastern corner of the Napa Valley. The grower was Andy Beckstoffer, the largest independent vineyard owner in northern California. About 400 of his 2,000 acres are in Carneros. A while ago I asked Andy why he didn't make his own wine from his great grapes. He said he tried it for a while (Fremont Creek label) but he found that growing superior grapes was much more fun. So, here is our...


Our Wine of the Day

1998 Beckstoffer Ranch Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Chardonnay
Appellation—Napa Valley
Age of Vines—Andy planted them in 1975.
Winemaker—Michael Silacci
Assistant Winemaker—Julia Winiarski
Rating—Napa guru James Laube gives the recent Beckstoffers four stars... "elegant...bright, rich flavors. Pear, apple, spice." My panel awarded this 1998 Best White of the Tasting.
Contact—Terri Shapleigh, (707) 265-2428, FAX (707) 257-7501
Price—$40 range


Postscript —The Name Game

"We're in the hills that rise on the east side of Napa Valley's Silverado Trail. Here, over a century ago, legend says hunters were in hot pursuit of huge stag. The chase ended abruptly when their quarry escaped by making an eye-popping leap over a broad chasm." Looks like the hunters were overmatched!...(from the December 23, 1999 WineDay)

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created November 2000

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