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Stag’s Leap tasting: Karia, Artemis, Fay, SLV and Cask 23

100% Cabernet Sauvignon, plus some chardonnay and sauvignon blanc

Stag’s Leap is a legendary wine producer in California. One of the first in California to make world class wines. Do they still? BKWine’s Ulf Bengtsson recently had the opportunity to verify if this is the case.

It’s Tuesday and Stag’s Leap is visiting Stockholm. We have lunch at Pubologi and a small tasting of their main range. Very nice! Stag’s Leap is, as you may know, one of the most legendary wines of California. It was featured in “The Paris Tasting” 1976. It was even so that a wine from Stag’s Leap, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, won it all.

Domaine Sainte Michelle Brut

Domaine Sainte Michelle Brut, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Since 2007 Stag’s Leap is part of the Ste Michelle Wine Estates. On site in Stockholm to lead the tasting and to talk about Stag’s Leap, we have Ste. Michelle’s European Manager Sander Vriend. Sander tells us a bit about the background and points out that Stag’s Leap is a cabernet sauvignon-based wine estate. It is simply cab that counts!

We begin with a little bubbly, a NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvée Brut from Washington State (around 10 euro). Very fresh, slightly sweet on the nose, a lot of apples. The low acidity makes the wine a charmer, if perhaps not too complex. High gulp factor!

We taste two more whites: their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (about 20 €) and then a chardonnay, 2010 Karia Chardonnay (25€). Here I was most charmed by the chardonnay. I found the sauvignon blanc a little too impersonal. Although I am a big fan of Californian and South African sauvignon blanc I thought this was a little tame and a little shy.

Shellfish starter

Shellfish starter, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

2010 Karia Chardonnay was, however, very interesting! Not at all like a regular chardonnay. This one was packed with fruit and almost on the verge of being perfumed… Very special and one of my favourites today. To this we had a small appetizer. Delicious.

After these first three whites, we get to grips with the reds. First the 2010 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon (40€). Distinctly cabernet on the nose. I find some cedar and tobacco, and a lot of bell pepper. On the whole a neat construction. Tight, not one ounce of stickiness, low sweetness. The wine feels very French in style, something that was consistent in all Stag’s Leap’s red wines.

Stag's Leap wine tasting

Stag’s Leap wine tasting, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Then we go on to the 2009 Fay Cabernet Sauvignon (~75 €) and the 2009 SLV Cabernet Sauvignon (~100€). Both exhibit a high concentration with a lot of flavour and plenty of tannins. Very concentrated wines with complex aromas. Really good! Again, I am struck by how French they are in style and taste.

The main course arrives. In honour of the visitor it is burgers from the prime rib. Eaten preferably in the American way, ie with the body. No knife and fork.

Finally we try the 2009 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon (~160€) against the 1997 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2009 is similar to the previous wines, very dense and very concentrated. The 1997 other hand has begun to open up and is much warmer on the nose and on the palate. Really gorgeous!

Stag's Leap Cask 23

Stag’s Leap Cask 23, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

In summary, I am struck by how French the wines are in style. Very little of what I normally associate with California wines: very ripe (over-ripe?) fruit and sweeter tones. Stag’s Leap was austere and elegant, but also full of charm. (All wines will be launched at the Swedish monopoly stores on April 1.)

Very big thank you to Stag’s Leap and Sander Vriend for coming here and showing your wines. Thanks!

More on Stag’s Leap.

Ulf Bengtsson writes about wine under the pseudonym Red Scream on his blog Red Scream and Riesling, on wine, food, photography and other things that are important in life. Like detective novels, taking long walks in Stockholm and the occasional burst of exercise. He is also on Facebook.

Stag's Leap corks

Stag’s Leap corks, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Sander Vriend presenting Stag's Leap wines

Sander Vriend presenting Stag’s Leap wines, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Burger and Stag's Leap cabernets

Burger and Stag’s Leap cabernets, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

This post is also available in: Swedish

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