by Fred McMillin
for March 5, 1997

The Case of the Leaping Apostrophe

We are in the hills that rise on the east side of Napa Valley's Silverado Trail. Here, over a century ago hunters were in hot pursuit of a huge stag. The chase ended abruptly when their quarry escaped by making an eye-popping leap over a broad chasm. Hence, the rocky hills became known as Stag's Leap. When Horace Chase built the first winery there about 1890, he named it the Stag's Leap Winery. BUT, in 1970 when Carl Doumani bought the Chase estate, his label read "Stags' Leap Winery". . the apostrophe had leaped over the "s." Then Warren Winiarski stopped lecturing at the University of Chicago and started building a winery which he named "Stag's Leap Wine Cellars." The apostrophe was back home. Then, which spelling did the Federal fathers use for the district's official title? Neither one. It is the Stags Leap District with no apostrophe.

So, while there's little agreement on how to spell Stags Leap, there is much agreement that it produces some of the best Cabs in the Western Hemisphere. For example, at San Francisco's fashionable Hawthorne Lane Restaurant, the top-priced California Cabernets included the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V.Vineyard 1993. My panel found it to be a huge mouthful, given even more purple power with a splash of Petite Verdot. We decided that if those hunters had first sipped this '93, we're not so sure the stag would have escaped.

1993 Cabernet.Sauvignon, S.L.V.Vineyard
Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Silverado Trail, Napa Valley, CA

Category: Highly Recommended now, Fantastic after five years in your cellar.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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