Forty-five years after showing up Bordeaux in the landmark “Judgment of Paris” spectacle, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars remains a benchmark for California Cabernet Sauvignon, a “first-growth” Napa Valley estate, as it calls itself — proud of its victory over the French but not opposed to borrowing the designation of the greatest Bordeaux wines.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 2018 “Artemis” Cabernet Sauvignon is a gorgeous, complex wine that’s as classic Napa as it gets, with quintessential notes of concentrated blackberry and cassis, hints of vanilla and milk chocolate, and a touch of bell pepper — all framed by dusty tannins and a stony minerality. Surprisingly accessible in its youth, it will continue to develop for years — a California Cab you’ll never grow tired of that can be enjoyed with all kinds of meat dishes and beyond.
It’s a Cabernet blend that’s part of Stag’s Leap’s “Napa Valley Collection,” which draws on fruit both from the estate and sourced from a range of other Napa vineyards, with Artemis relying more on the latter. It’s also Stag’s Leap’s more moderately priced lineup; the 2018 “Artemis” has an average price of $73 but is $10 to $20 less at many stores. (Stag’s Leap’s “Estate Collection” Cabernets command prices in the $150 to $300 range.)
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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is not to be confused with Stags’ Leap Winery, another leading Napa property, although you can see how the placement of an apostrophe has been a source of rivalry and contention over the years.
Perhaps adding to the confusion: The small, prestigious Stags Leap District AVA after which both wineries are named does not use the punctuation mark at all, so as not to favor either of them. It’s yet another example of why so many people find wine language and labels so puzzling.