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The history of the resort and its owners is rich and colorful. Tales of ghosts, mummies, mischievous monkeys, and “shady” dealings at Stags' Leap Manor abound. Some are documented, some are passed on by word of mouth, and some are pure speculation.
After decades of being owned by a multitude of owners - via Mexican land grants (Yajome Rancho), homesteading, a bounty award, and patents - the Grigsby family consolidated a 700-acre parcel where the current Stags' Leap estate resides today. The Grigsbys planted grapes on the land in 1872 and 13 years later they transferred the land to W.W. Thompson and H.H. Harris (Napa County Sheriff). The next year Mr. Harris conveyed his interest in the property to Thompson’s nephew, Horace Blanchard Chase.
While the Manor House was being constructed Horace had decided to take advantage of grapes on the property by making wine. By 1892, 80 acres of vineyards were in production. Since he had no winemaking facilities, he built a 150 foot wine cave by blasting into the volcanic rhyolite rock of the Palisades. The cave was the first to be built into the east side of the Napa Valley.
Unfortunately, the Chases literally “gave into misfortune” in 1909 when he lost much of his fortune through failed investments in Mexican silver mines that went bad; and the property was lost by default.
In 1913 the property was purchased by Clarence and Frances Grange who were prominent members of San Francisco society. Clarence, an ex-Chicagoan, was an heir to the Grange Farm Equipment Company fortune; and he and Frances wanted to have a country home in Napa so that they could entertain their socialite friends. The Granges moved in the Manor House with their two children, where they lived until 1956.
The Granges lived in the Manor House year ‘round; and, while they did not intend to make wine, the vineyards remained in production.
After Clarence had a severe accident with a horse, most of the responsibilities of running the property fell to Frances. With Clarence unable to work, Frances created an upscale destination resort, Stags' Leap Manor, which became known as one of the most prominent resorts in Napa Valley at the time. Tales of ghosts, mummies, mischievous monkeys, and “shady” dealings at Stags Leap Manor abound.
The origin of the name "Stags' Leap" is not well documented. Most common oral histories attribute it to a native Wappo legend of a stag leaping to escape hunters or leaping to its death in preference to being hunted down. Another version refers to a stag that eluded an entire generation of hunters, always leaping and vanishing at the last moment.
In 1970, Carl Doumani and his wife Joanne purchased a portion of the property. Doumani was a Los Angeles restaurateur, builder, and wholesaler who first came to Napa Valley on a trip gifted by friends. Intrigued by the setting, history, and privacy of the area, Doumani purchased the property and began a vast nine year restoration project. In addition to preserving most of the original stonework of the Manor House, Doumani restored the Stone Winery, Cottage, and grounds.
During this time, the vineyards were also restored and winemaking resumed under the Stags’ Leap Winery label. Under Doumani's ownership, the winery went from being a small operation in which he often wore many hats to a fully staffed 85,000 case winery with a solid reputation for excellent and a cult following for its Petite Sirah.
An experience like no other in Napa Valley, Stags' Leap offers only two visitation time slots each day. Enjoy an intimate tour and tasting while listening to many of the fun anecdotes from the previous ownership eras. It will be the highlight of your trip.