Stag's Leap Stags' Leap

Stag’s Leap – the winery whose name has an apostrophe before the S – is the famous Napa winery known for producing the Cabernet that bested the top Bordeaux at the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Thanks to this event, both Napa and the winery became famous internationally, becoming high-end names that many people the world over have come to recognize. There’s just one problem: another winery exists in Napa named Stags’ Leap – apostrophe after the S – and it causes consumers a ton of confusion.

Stag’s Leap and Stags’ Leap both make great wine, but it is a common occurrence for people to drink the latter and think they’re drinking the former. Take a look at the labels — they even look eerily similar, so it’s quite easy to see how a consumer could become lost. So why is this confusion allowed to exist?

Both wineries were founded around the same time in the 1970s in the Stags Leap district of Napa. Wanting to honor the area where their grapes were grown and their wine was made, they each took the name of the district as the name of their winery. And all was fine for a bit, until one winery won a little competition propelling it into international fame, and the other reaped the benefits of that fame as well – since most consumers have no clue that the two wineries are different.

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Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

This caused Stag’s Leap to sue Stags’ Leap for the right to be the sole bearer of the name, but the problem was, with both wineries being founded at basically the same time, and each of them releasing their first wine under their respective labels in 1972, neither could truly prove they were first. The case became so heated, that it went all the way to the California Supreme Court. When hearing the case, it was determined that both wineries were founded at the same time, and named for the area, so therefore both had a right to use the name. The resolution: Stag’s Leap would use the apostrophe before the S, and Stags’ Leap would use the apostrophe after the S. The court felt this slight grammatical change would differentiate the two brands.

After the lawsuit was settled the owners of both properties actually became friends, releasing a 1985 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon with an equal percentage of grapes from each estate. They named it “Accord.”

Stags' Leap Winery
Stags’ Leap Winery

Yet still, confusion ensues. At this point in time, both wineries are owned by larger corporations, with Stag’s Leap owned by a joint venture of Chateau St. Michelle and Antinori and Stags’ Leap owned by Treasury Wine Estates, Australia’s largest wine company. This means that both brands are readily available in the market, so coming in contact with both in the same shop is highly probable.

So what should you buy if you come across either of these brands? Both make excellent high-end wines in many varieties, but there is one varietal in particular that each winery is known for. If it’s Stag’s Leap go for the Cabernet, particularly their S.L.V. Cab, as it’s the Cabernet from the Stag’s Leap Vineyard (S.L.V.) that won the 1976 Judgement of Paris. If you instead come across Stags’ Leap, grab a bottle of their Petite Sirah, since it’s what put them on the map.