Seductive and silky, our 1999 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon unfolds with nuances of cassis, black cherry, mint, licorice and violet that reflect three exceptional vineyards of this district. The cool, 1999 vintage resulted in extremely deep color, concentration, and mature, supple tannins. Seventeen months of aging in French chateau barrels wove complex nuances through the lush aromas and flavors. We captured the full flavor profile of the wine by bottling without filtration. The wine will continue to develop richness and complexity with aging.
92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Malbec
The Stags Leap District is located on the southeastern side of Napa Valley, between the towns of Yountville and Napa. Barely a mile wide and almost three miles long, the district is cradled between the rocky hillsides of the Vaca range to the east and the Napa River to the west. This was the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) appellation classified by the distinctiveness of its soils. University of California at Davis Professor Deborah Elliot-Fisk identified 95% of the soils as derived from volcanic rocks, primarily gravelly soils of the Bale series. These unique, well-draining soils, combined with an ideal marine-influenced climate, provide an ideal terroir for Merlot vines. We selected three vineyards that yield grapes of silky, fruit expression and fine tannins, the signature of the district.
We gently hand-harvested the grapes into shallow bins to minimize crushing of the clusters. After fermentation, we gave the wine a total of 33 days skin contact to soften tannins and enhance varietal complexity. All the wine completed an in-barrel, native malolactic fermentation for roundness and depth. During 17 months of aging in French oak barrels (75% new oak), we naturally clarified the wine with barrel-to-barrel racking. A blend of Merlot and Malbec enhanced the flavor profile with notes of violets. We bottled our Stags Leap District Merlot unfiltered to fully retain its exceptionally silky, soft texture and complex flavors.
The 1999 La Niña weather pattern gave Napa Valley one of the coolest vintages on record; then the weather took a sharp turn in late September with a week-long hot spell. "The very low relative humidity caused the grapes to gain 2° in sugar within just a few days. Many of the grape varieties were physiologically ripe, then the heat spell brought up the sugars," said Associate Winemaker Richard Sowalsky. Compared to the El Nino phenomenon in 1998, marked by dramatic changes in weather, this year experienced a milder growing season overall, with average rainfall. Because of the cool temperatures, bud break and bloom occurred later than average (around April 15 and June 6, respectively) in our Wappo Hill Vineyard. July and August temperatures were considerably below normal. Harvest began slowly in mid-September; perfect ripening weather wrapped up the harvest on November 4. We hand-harvested the three vineyards for this wine on October 3, 5 and 6.