With the impending sale of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, another great California name seems to be passing into its next phase. Whether that phase is good or bad remains to be seen.
I remember how the Stag's Leap wines from the late '70s and early '80s were prized bottles, in the early days of my own wine cellar. After moving on from college, I didn't have much to build a cellar with, but I would splurge where I could to add a bottle here and there. My first boss in the wine business, Al Hotchkin, used to open some of his older Stag's Leap vintages for the holidays or special occasions, and the wines always hit a chord with me.
Both the S.L.V. and Fay bottlings, along with the Cask 23, really turned me on to California Cabernet, along with the likes of Diamond Creek, Dunn and a few others. But the last two decades' worth of vintages didn't deliver like those from '75 through '85, in my opinion. The old argument over whether the winery's style changed, whether new wineries passed them by or whether my own tastes changed can probably never be settled.
As the announcement of the sale shakes loose some of my old wine memories, I'm curious to hear your reactions as well: Do you feel like it's only a matter of time before all the grand old wineries are gobbled up by a few major players? Is it simply a case of too much money for someone to turn down, and a just reward for a lifetime of hard work in building up a business? Or do you simply gloss over the headline since you haven't bought the wines in a while anyway?
For more on the founder of Stag's Leap, and the winery's sale, check out today's blog from James Laube, who broke the story for Wine Spectator last night.