Aroma: cedar and smoke
Tastes: tart plum skins and plump blackberries.
In other words, a very good petite syrah. The grape seems to make wines like this, all purple-y and plummy, thick, zingy, and tongue-tingly. Delicious as it is, I don't find in it the "brutal power" or the tannic weight that our friend Oz Clarke senses in them generally (see Oz Clarke's Grapes and Wines). There is much more brutal power in a young and expensive Napa cabernet which tastes like a raw green pepper and is predicted to be drinkable in five to ten years. This petite syrah is easy-drinking, downright "gulpable" in comparison. But how nice, anyway, to discover that Stags' Leap makes his short list of excellent California producers.
Because you see, the label puzzled me at first. There's that apostrophe, and the implied collection -- brace? "clash"? -- of plural stags. Our Stags' Leap with its fine petite syrah is not the same place as the legendary Stag's Leap, singular, founded by Warren Winiarski, home of Cask 23 cabernet, and of the Stag's Leap S.L.V. cab which outranked mighty French Bordeaux in the famed blind "Judgment of Paris" tasting in 1976. If you hunt about in Hugh Johnson's Pocket Guide to Wine (2010) you'll find the two names listed of course right next to each other, but the famed singular Stag's Leap gets a full paragraph and four stars, while our plural Stags' Leap gets only a clipped cross reference -- "See Beringer Blass" -- and, once you find it under the name of its owner, one star.
But the experts are always telling us to ignore expert opinions, form our own views, and drink what we like. (Can one man's top producer be another's one-star harrumph?) So we will.
Retail: about $27