Category: "Beginner Grapes"

The Different Stag's Leap Wine Makers

October 10th, 2011

One day, as hunters pursued a magnificent stag, the noble creature reached a large promontory in the palisades towering over the Napa Valley below. Trapped between the cliffs and the hunters, the stag paused, considered, then leapt across the chasm to safety. Having eluded the hunters, the stag’s boldness earned him the enduring admiration of his pursuers and their descendants for generations to come.

There are two producers in Napa Valley that have the Stag's Leap name in common, though punctuated differently.

The tale of the stag was also the inspiration for Stags’ Leap Winery, which is located within the Stags Leap District. Established in 1893 as a summer residence and resort, wine production began again in earnest when Stags’ Leap Winery was purchased in 1971 by Carl Doumani. Currently owned by Foster's Wine Estates, a global wine company, Stags’ Leap Winery is principally noted for its Petite Syrah.

In 1970, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was founded by the Winiarski family in what is now known as the Stags Leap District. The Winiarski’s first brought international recognition to California winemaking and the Napa Valley when their 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the 1976 Paris Tasting. Today, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars remains family owned and operated. It is acclaimed for its Estate Cabernet Sauvignons, CASK 23, S.L.V., and FAY, which are among the most highly regarded and sought after Cabernets in the world.

I think that it is safe to say that if you are caught in conversation trying to remember a wine you have had from one of these two producers, if it was a Petite Sirah it was probably Stags' Leap Winery and if it was a Cabernet Sauvignon it was probably Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

*All quoted materials are from Stag's Leap Winery.

The difference between Tawny and Ruby Port

January 7th, 2009

Port is a fortified wine made with Brandy, which stops the fermentation process. This process allows the port to keep the residual sugars and increases the alcohol content.

So you see the after-dinner drink menu and some ports are listed as Ruby and others Tawny. Or you visit your local wine seller and you see the bottles labeled Ruby or Tawny. And you wonder what the difference is, naturally. To the casual observer, there isn't much difference. Both wines are aged in barrels, but Ruby is aged for less time than the Tawny. This creates the differences between them.

Ruby Port is aged for a few years in concrete or stainless steel barrels. It will retain its dark red color and generally is sweet and fruity.

Tawny Port will age much longer, sometimes 20 years or more in typically wooden barrels. During that period it will begin to lose it's red color as it turns brown. It will lose some of the sweetness as the flavors gain other complexities. Note: The number of years of aging on the label is only an average.

(References: OregonWines - WineTrail - Wikipedia)

How Long to Keep Open Wine

July 31st, 2006


There are lots of variables regarding the wine type, method of production, age of bottle and on and on. There are all those considerations and exceptions but for 95% of the wine that most people drink, the answer is pretty simple.

Three (3) days. Around here, we keep wines up to 3 days after the bottle has been opened. Once a bottle of wine is opened, the oxygen in the air starts a process that initially softens the flavors and opens up the aromas of the wine. As this process (oxidation) continues over many hours and days, the wine is ultimately made undrinkable. The trick is to use the wine before it becomes unpalatable or to pour it out before bad wine is served to guests.

You can (and usually should) refrigerate recorked bottes. You can buy stoppers and gadgets to create a slight vaccuum in the bottle. You can get systems that put a layer of inert gas in the bottle. All these items and efforts are aimed at slowing the oxidation that will eventually destroy the wine.

What makes the whole thing tricky is that the wine will not go immediately from good to bad. The wine will, at a point, begin to progressively develop tastes that are unpleasant. Just like milk that is going bad, each person has a different point at which they identify the beverage as having gone bad.

If you want to play it safe (and who doesn't with either milk or wine), then just use the 3 day rule. Recork and refrigerate the bottle for up to three days. With red wines, pull the bottle from the refrigerator at least 1/2 hour before you want to use it so it will warm to a desirable serving temperature in the mid 60's F. With white wines or roses, just pull and pour when you need them.

Keeping opened wines beyond 3 days is like playing golf in a lightning storm. You may get through but you are tempting the fates. If you keep a table wine for more than 3 days, you will be serving a wine that has lost most of the characteristics that are prized. The aroma will start to change and much of the fresh fruit smells and tastes will subside. At worst, you'll be serving a wine that has oxidized too much and is partly or entirely bad.

Dessert wines like Sauternes, most everyday Ports and most Sherries can last much longer but those are special cases. Just play it safe with the 3 day rule. It is a good practice to write the date the bottle was opened on the label if there is a chance of confusion.