Located along the Silverado Trail in California's Napa Valley, the Stags Leap District appellation is home to some of the most elegant Cabernet Sauvignons grown on American soil. The district begins seven miles north of the town of Napa, embracing Chimney Rock Winery at its southern end. The Yountville Cross Road draws the northern boundary. Barely a mile wide and three miles long, the district is bounded by rocky hillsides on the east and the Napa River on the west. Its name derives from the legend of a nimble stag, said to have escaped a hunter by making a fantastic leap from one of the district's towering rock outcroppings to another.
Grape-growing in the district goes back to the 1880s, but was halted by the root louse phylloxera in the late 1800s and then by Prohibition, early in the 20th century. During that time, much of the district was turned back to orchards of prunes, apples, pears, and walnuts. It wasn't until 1961, when vintner Nathan Fay planted the District's first Cabernets, that other growers and winemakers were drawn to the area. One by one, they discovered the "magic" in this long, narrow pocket of land. Here, the natural environmental mechanics of warm sun and cool breezes mesh perfectly with coarse, gravelly soils. Hillside rocks with a western exposure retain the heat of the day and radiate it back out at night. The heat is moderated by cool, swirling Pacific breezes that blow north from the San Pablo Bay. This combination of elements encourages optimal ripening, as the coolness maintains the grapes' acidity and lush, pronounced fruit flavors. Then and today, pronounced fruit character, gentle but well-structured tannins, and silky texture are the hallmarks of Stags Leap District Cabernet.
Long before the BATF designated the area as an official appellation, a 1973 Stags Leap District Cabernet swept the famed Paris tastings of 1976 when it won in a blind tasting that included Bordeaux from Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, and Montrose. When the tasting was repeated in 1986, another Stags Leap District Cabernet, a 1972 vintage, took the honors. Today, Stags Leap District wineries such as Chimney Rock continue to produce Cabernets that compare favorably with the world's greatest wines.