Wine Country Itinerary - Stags Leap

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By Robert P. Farmer

NAPA VALLEY, CA - In a Valley that is home to many famous regions, Stags Leap jumps out. Located near the eastern center of Napa Valley, the Stags Leap district is bisected by the Silverado Trail. Among Napa Valley's great regions for Cabernet, Stags Leap is known for wineries that produce cabs with a heralded reputation--famously described as an "iron fist in a velvet glove." The cabs are given their strength and subtlety from the volcanic soil, the moderate climate, and by the able hand of the many vintners who produce wines here. Local lore has it that the region is named for a horse that leapt across the craggy palisades to escape pursuing hunters. You will no doubt find much easier going on your hunt for fine wines.
Stop 1: Chimney Rock
Since 1980, Chimney Rock has helped set the Stags Leap standard, producing top-rated cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-variety blends from grapes grown entirely on-estate vineyards in the District. Chimney Rock is a popular stop along the Trail, and is frequently tapped for special events held in its Barrel Room or on the beautifully maintained grounds. Several tasting options are offered at Chimney Rock, ranging from a five-selection flight of estate wines for $20 per person, to the reserve tasting "experience," which includes five reserve cabs (2000-2004) for $50 per person. The winery also offers tastings that include small group vineyard tours and private-room sit-down service.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-5pm. 5350 Silverado Trail, 800-257-2641
Tasting Fee: $20 - $50

Stop 2: Pine Ridge
Another popular stop along the Trail, Pine Ridge also offers an excellent venue for private events and receptions--an elegant wine cave. Though Pine Ridge is located in the heart of Stags Leap, the winery produces varietals that embody and celebrate all of Napa--including pinot noirs from Carneros and cabernets from neighboring Rutherford. The winery is always lively and bustling, and there are many ways to enjoy a tasting. In the tasting room, overlooking the manicured estate gardens, flights of current releases are offered for $15 per person and cabernet-only flights are available for $25. Pine Ridge also offers a "barrel to the bottle" option that gives a glimpse into the winemaking process and culminates with samples of the winery's excellent selection of cabs paired with artisan cheeses. This tasting is $35 and is available by appointment only.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10:30am-4:30pm 5901 Silverado Trail, 800-575-9777
Tasting Fee:  $15 - $35

Stop 3: Robert Sinskey Vineyards
In the Valley the name Sinskey is synonymous with pinot noir. But as you'll see at the vineyard, the "Vandal" cabernet from grapes grown on the five-acre estate vineyard can hold its own with any of the Stags Leap cabs. Robert and his wife--who is a chef and cookbook author--clearly enjoy the good life. The joie de vivre is evident at the winery, where the open kitchen in the tasting room is frequently used to entertain friends and guests with cooking classes and demonstrations. The winery's catalog of biodynamically produced wines is available to sample during regular tasting room hours. But a more memorable experience can be had on the reservation-only culinary tour, which includes cheese pairings.
Tasting Room: Open daily 10am-4:30pm 6340 Silverado Trail, 707-944-9090
Tasting Fee $15-$20, tours $25-$30

Stop 4: Cliff Lede Vineyards
The northern edge of Stags Leap is home to one of its most interesting wineries. Cliff Lede is a rather recent addition to the scene, but has quickly established itself as a hallmark producer of Stags Leap District wines--the opulent Poetry Cabernet is the flagship wine, a wonderful example of the terrior. The winery is a great example of passion--for wine, for art, for life. The eponymous proprietor is frequently spotted on premises, tending to the winemaking process and to the world-caliber art installed throughout the grounds and in the onsite gallery. Private tours of the facility and seated tastings are available by appointment. Otherwise, the tasting room staff is eager to pour winery-exclusive releases on a drop-by basis.
Tasting Room:Open daily 10am-5pm. 1473 Yountville Cross Road, 800-428-2259
Tasting Fee: $15

Napa Valley Itinerary
Carneros Itinerary
Calistoga Itinerary
Merlot Lovers Tour
Yountville Itinerary

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How can you recommend stops on this wine tasting itinerary for Stags Leap and NOT include Stags Leap Winery! Seriously... One of my first wine tasting trips upon turning 21 included this winery, so perhaps it will forever have a soft place in my heart. Nonetheless, the grounds are gorgeous and the wine fabulous. Their Viognier is just plain delicious and of course you just can't go wrong with any of their Cabs! Sigh...perhaps I should take a trip this weekend!

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