In 1976, the international wine landscape changed forever at the Judgement of Paris, an international wine competition judged by France's toughest critics. The best French wines, including First Growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion, would go head to head with American wines from the Napa Valley. No one thought the Americans stood a chance. After the blind tastings were conducted, the winner was revealed. The critics were flabbergasted. Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon had outmatched all the competition, an unimaginable victory for California winemaking.
Since 1976, Stag's Leap has continued to produce premium wines on a consistent basis, expanding its production to 130,000 cases per year. The elements which dictated its success, however, date back to the founding of the winery and, of course, the terroir. Oenophile Warren Winiarski founded Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in 1970. He purchased 44 acres of volcanic soil in the Stag's Leap wine growing region after sampling a Cabernet produced by his neighbor, Nathan Fay. The first vintage produced commercially was 1973, the same vintage that came in first at the Judgement of Paris. The original 44 acres purchased in 1970 now comprise Stag's Leap Vineyard, or S. L.V.. One acre is planted to Merlot, the rest to Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 1986, Winiarski bought the neighboring Fay Vineyard, planted to 66 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and a half acre of Petit Verdot. In 1996, Stags Leap acquired Arcadia Vineyard, a 128 acre Chardonnay vineyard near Mount George in the Napa Valley. S. L.V. and Fay Vineyard produce Stags Leap's premium wines. The eponymous wines, S. L.V. and FAY, are single-vineyard Cabernets, while Cask 23, the flagship wine, is a Cabernet blend from both vineyards.
Warren Winiarski retired in 2007 at the age of 79 when he sold Stag's Leap Wine Cellars to a joint venture between Château Ste. Michelle and the Antinori family of Italy for a reported $185 million.