Nothing sells like Stags Leap off Restaurant Nicholas’ wine list. When customers see the name Stags Leap, regardless of where it’s placed on my list, they know it means great Cabernet.
However, the flip side of this is that many times, when I present the wine to the customer, they stop me and say, “Hey that’s not the label that I am used to.”
Here’s the story: There is a wine-growing region and two wineries with similar names, Stags Leap District (SLD), Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Stags’ Leap Winery (note the placement of the legally defined apostrophes). Each winery used the name before the viticultural area was legally defined. A whole bunch of lawsuits later, they got to keep it and put it on their label even when the wine did not come from Stags Leap!
That’s right, the label you see in almost every wine shop in America is ***ITALnot***END from the Stags Leap district, but from the generalized region of Napa Valley. Only the very top cuvee’s from the Stag’s Leap winery actually come from the prized Stags Leap Wine District. Note: for the top Stag’s Leap winery cuvees, you better be ready to plonk down $100 a bottle. Crazy, I know.
Despite the confusion about names, the one thing that consumers have right is that the Stags Leap District is a premium growing region for Cabernet, probably one the best. If you follow scores, many of those upper 90-jobbers pulled down by the likes of Shafer, Cliff Lede, Clos du Val and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (again, note the apostrophe) were for wines coming from this unique section of eastern Napa, a few miles north of the town. Cabernet vines rooted in a mix of alluvial and volcanic soils thrive here, their development slowed and refined by cool nights brought on by the Stags Leap Corridor, a narrow passage to the Bay through the mountains. The best of Stags Leap offers Cab with dark, powerful fruit balanced by firm structure and supple tannins. Ry Richards of Fiancetto is a new player on the Stags Leap scene, his debut vintage is sure to keep him there a long time.
Ry Richards cut his winemaking teeth with Phil Titus of Chappellet. His fledgling brand, Fiancetto, is only a couple of vintages old but already, it’s been one of most requested reordered wine at Nicholas Wines….the issue is that there is very little of it. Ry hasn’t left his day job at Chappellet yet. When people get around to tasting his latest side project, I think the demand will finally push him out the door.
Ry’s 2012 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is totally knocked-out, black to the core, with layered fruit and a complex, fine finish. It will be nearly impossible not to drink this wine right now for the sheer pleasure of the fruit but don’t be afraid to lose a few bottles in the cellar. Like all great wines from SLD, it’s built to last.
Regular price $35, Nicholas wines price $26, case price, $280, or just under $23.50 a bottle. It’s a steal of a deal – don’t miss it. Order Now: www.nicholaswines.com.
Fiancetto Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2012
Ry Richards refined his handcrafting complex, vibrant Cabernet Sauvignon under the tutelage of Phil Titus under Chappellet Vineyards. At Fiancetto, Ry’s new brand, the goal was the same –crafting lush Cabernet with fine tannin that speaks to its place of origin. The Stag’s Leap District cuvee comes from two well-drained vineyards, loaded with pebbles and gravel. The gravelly loam is key here, roots dig deep in poor soil, bringing terrific minerality and freshness up to the grapes. The vineyards position on floor guarantees excellent sun exposure allowing for superb concentration. The result is a knockout $25 Cabernet, loaded with fresh, juicy black fruit, perfect with grilled beef or with just a hunk of cheese; 840 cases produced.
Restaurant Nicholas, located in Red Bank, is New Jersey’s highest Zagat-rated restaurant (2006-present). Nicholas Wines is an online retail wine store that commits to storing wine at 56 degrees and ships nationwide.