Stag's Leap Cellars
2003 Napa Valley Petite Syrah
California: Napa Valley
What we say
LIBRARY RAID ALERT:
Through clever maneuvering and crafty subterfuge (and a little begging), we were able to secure the final stock of this fantastic wine. With less than [REDACTED] cases left anywhere in the world, today’s wine will sell out – so please act fast!
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine deserves special recognition as a Superior wine. We always showcase the best wines we can sleuth, but sometimes a wine really rises above. When it does, we issue this special alert.
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Mission Codename: Le Grand
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate world famous Stags’ Leap winery – and secure an exclusive Library cache of their fabled Napa Valley Petite Sirah
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Stags’ Leap Winery
Wine Subject: 2003 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Petite Sirah
Backgrounder: The Stags Leap District in Napa Valley gained worldwide acclaim when, in 1976, wines from the region bested their French rivals in the now-infamous Judgment of Paris. Today’s wine from our friends at Stags’ Leap Winery is a rich, delicious and character-filled wine that reinforces the widely-held belief that the best wines in California come from the Stags Leap district.
Petite Sirah’s California roots dates back to when it was believed to be a close relative of the Syrah grape. Later it would be found to be genetically identical to the Durif, named for its after French discoverer François Durif who found that the varietal was a Syrah grape pollinated with Peloursin flowers. Its smaller berries with higher skin to pulp ratio leads to more intense flavors. Another benefit of the smaller berries are tighter clusters that are more resistant to mildew. Currently Petite Sirah is less popular in France and increasingly popular in the United States.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and inky Burgundy, with a thick ring of beautiful ruby that circles the glass. When swirled, the wine settles quickly, leaving behind thick legs that are stained the color of the wine.
Smell – Lush and very fragrant, the aromas of this wine can be smelled from a foot away from the glass! Black cherry and ripe blackberry leap from the glass when you inhale. These are joined closely by black plum, blueberry preserves and soft spice. At the very end, soft yet intriguing aromas of pine, caramel and cedar round out the gorgeous nose.
Feel – Light, cool and wet at the entry. Then, plush tannins introduce a soft dryness that very gradually increases, spreading frpm the center of the palate to the lips and cheeks.
Taste – Bold and bright, but in beautiful balance, the flavors here lead with blackberry, blueberry, black cherry and red plum. These are tempered against smoky Bing cherry, softest cedar and the flavors of crushed black rose petals. At the very end, a hint f brown spice and black pepper appear for a moment.
Finish – Long and dynamic, with fruit flavors that are sustained for a long time. As the dryness gradually increases, some flavors also increase before tailing off. This is an intriguing aspect to this wine that surprised and delighted us.
Conclusion – Where may a Petite Sirah is overpowering, this beautifully aged wine is very elegant and shows real finesse. The aromas are big. So big that they leap across the table at you, long before you even reach for your glass. On the palate, the feel is restrained for a Petite. The wine is smooth and soft, eventually revealing a soft grip that gives the wine a fullness – without smashing your teeth in as some Petites can. Flavors are full and delicious, but elegant and not at all overpowering. Whether the superior balance and appeal of this wine can be attributed to its age, its fruit, or the skills of its winemaker is irrelevant; What matters most is that this wine is a true delight!
With Harvest 2010 upon us, we were unable to sit down with Stags’ winemaker for our customary interview. For your entertainment and education, below is our original mission report – from back when we first discovered Stags’ Leap wonderful Viognier:
I have become a real fan of blind tasting. Tasting a wine, without knowing who makes it, is a great practice. It evens the playing field and makes the judging of the wine far more fair.
When considering today’s wine, I was faced with my own preconceived notion of the wine – especially of the brand. Stags’ Leap Winery is one of those almost mythic brands that just scream quality. Want to buy the good Stags’ wine? You don’t have to research your options overly; Just pick your favorite varietal and be virtually assured that you will enjoy the wine.
Because of this bias, I decided to taste blind. I pulled two other Viognier bottles from my secret stash and placed all three bottles into paper bags. Then I grabbed Agent Sparkle and we headed down to our favorite local wine bar to enlist the help of the owner and whatever customers we could wrangle.
Once there, we had one of the servers open the bottles and mix them up, and the bottles were marked ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. Another server poured. In all, there were 8 of us tasting the wines. The other Viognier in the tasting were all respectable in their own right, so the judging would be as fair as possible.
After we had tasted all three wines, a clear and immediate winner seemed to emerge. One of the wines brought the most smiles and positive comments, but we had to be sure. We assigned a point value to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and each of us awarded points to our ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ wines. We enlisted the help of a non-drinking customer in tallying the points.
The ‘C’ wine was the overwhelming winner. When I grabbed the bag that contained our ‘C’ selection, I knew immediately what was inside. The distinctive voluptuous shape of the bottle told me that our winner was the 2007 Stags’ Leap Viognier! I slowly pulled the bottle out and then gently set the bottle on the table. There was a moment of contemplative silence – and then actual applause broke out. _ What a great moment and what a great wine!_
We hope you enjoy this beauty as much as we have. Cheers!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Stags’ Leap Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
92 Points & Editors’ Choice – Wine Enthusiast – Long before the boom in “Pet,” Stags’ Leap was committed to it. And few wineries have performed more consistently over the years. The ‘03, from the winery’s old estate vineyard, exhibits dark, dry, rich, robust characteristics. It’s a flamboyant, plummy-leathery wine that never loses control. (Steve Heimoff) December 1, 2006
About This Wine:
Petite Syrah is a wine that has become synonymous with Stags’ Leap. Over the years they’ve developed long-standing partnerships with Petite Syrah growers up and down the valley, and nurtured their own 70-year-old Petite Syrah estate vineyard, planted on deep, rocky soils. This wine benefits from that diversity, as well as from the mélange of varieties that add to the final blend. This classic red is inky black, and is as complex as it is powerful.
The late harvest of 2003 ensured full phenolic maturity in Stags’ Leap’s Petite Syrah vineyards. The grapes were hand-picked in October and fermented in a combination of open and closed-top fermenters, maximizing the concentration and extraction of the finished wine. Nineteen months of ageing in mostly neutral oak barrels allows the wine to find its center as the varietal mix combines Petite Syrah with Syrah, Viognier, Carignane, Mourvedre and Grenache.
From the look of the wine, you’d expect it to be massive on the palate, but one of the pleasures of Stags’ Leap Petite Syrah is its finesse and elegance. This is an unusually complex and layered vintage. The nose teems with blackberries, red currants, cut hay, and burnt oranges. On the palate this sensuous wine is a mouthful of rich bitter chocolate, French vanilla, and raspberries wrapped in round, sappy tannins. It’s at once fascinating and intriguing, leaving you with a reverberating finish.
About The Winery:
On one of California’s earliest wine estates, a unique terroir and ideal microclimate support a classical standard of viticulture, land use, and winemaking that is as relevant today as it was over a century ago.
An intimate valley within the greater Napa Valley, Stags’ Leap is a place of natural beauty, storied buildings and gardens, a lively history, and a reputation for elegant wines showing finesse and intensity.
History – A fashionable country resort in the mid-twentieth century, popular with Hollywood due to its 1892 stone Manor House and historic gardens, legends of bootleggers and gangsters, ghosts and gypsies, Stags’ Leap has been home to three major family groups up through the modern revitalization of the winery that began in the 1970s.
Stags Leap Manor, as it was called in the 1920s, was known as one of the prominent country retreats in the Napa Valley at a time when resort and spa business was big. In addition to lodging and dining, amenities included lawn tennis, swimming, horseback riding, children’s activities, golf, music, cards, a library, and Napa Valley wines and liquors (prior to and after Prohibition).
Varietal Composition: 85% Petite Syrah, 10% Syrah, 1.5% Grenache, 1.5% Viognier, 1% Carignan, 1% Mourvedre
Release Date: April 2006