Amongst the resplendent cabernet jewels in Napa’s crown, few sparkle so pre-eminently as those of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. I quote here, one who knows whereof he speaks, Warren Winiarski, winemaker and co-owner of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars: “Let us take a fresh start by making an assumption….that in every class of product there is a hierarchy of quality associated with its examples, and that there are those examples which most truly represent the whole class by being at the peak of the hierarchy….these standards of excellence, these models of virtue, transcend the barriers of the old and the new, the near and the far, as well as regional, national or geographic borders.”
In 1964 having given up a teaching position at the University of Chicago, Winiarski moved his family to Napa Valley for an apprenticeship at Souverain Cellars. Two years later he became one of the very first employees as assistant winemaker at the then brand new Robert Mondavi Winery. Then, in 1972, he founded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, in 1976, catapulted to international stardom when an English wine merchant staged a Paris tasting of various Cabernet based wines; several top Bordeaux plus some of California’s most illustrious Cabernets. The results were astonishing. The Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was number one. This was the first time a California wine had won an international competition where the French were doing the judging!
The Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hawk Crest label dates back to 1974, the product of Winiarski’s desire to “try and make wines from different varieties and different areas.” Our selection this month is made from grapes grown in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties. Crafted by the identical staff which produces Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars three Napa Valley Cabernets, Hawk Crest Cabernet represents the sturdy bottom tier of Winiarski’s personal hierarchy.
This “North Coast” Cabernet has a lovely pink-purple color, clear with medium intensity. The nose is a melange of fruit and spice; cherries, berries, licorice, and eucalyptus. Medium bodied the wine is soft on the palate, beautifully balanced with a pleasant mildly astringent finish with lingering berry and spice accents.
Serve at room temp. with lamb chops or a cheese and fruit platter.
Cellaring Notes: Will continue to evolve and soften 2-5 years.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper