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Stags Leap District became an officially designated AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1989. To use the appellation on a label, wineries must use 85 percent fruit grown within the district.

The district is located five miles north of the town of Napa, and east of the Napa River, along the Silverado Trail. Covering an area three miles long and a mile wide, half of its 2,700 acres are planted to vineyards.

The Stags Leap Palisades are the most prominent geographical feature in the area and are part of the Vaca Range that stretches along the eastern side of Napa Valley. Erosion from the palisades is the source of the volcanic soil acknowledged as a contributing factor to the modern reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon in the Stags Leap District.