The 85-acre Estate Vineyard is divided into 23 separate blocks based on soil type and exposure to the sun, in a combination of valley floor and hillside slope plantings.

The rock outcropping that forms the eastern boundary of the estate, the Stags Leap Palisades, sheds debris in the form of volcanic rhyolite and tuff, which is carried to the valley floor where it mingles with the deeper subsoil made up of Bale loam formed from ancient river sediment. Topographically, the slope of the palisades and it's small valley are oriented to block early morning sun, retain afternoon heat, and funnel cooler marine air coming from the San Pablo Bay to the south.

The sheer volume of rock has a direct impact on the local climate of the estate. The rock face of the palisades gives off stored warmth after sunset, radiating down over the entire ranch. It’s wonderful to feel that lingering, radiating heat. You can bet it feels good to a Cabernet cluster as well. The high incidence of rock in the soil holds the heat of the sun into the early twilight hours and then loses it rapidly, effectively slowing and prolonging the ripening process.

This combination of Napa Valley’s extended growing season with the accentuated warmth and cooling of the Stags Leap District results in an ideal balance of acid and sugar in the fruit. The wine grapes are given time to mature and develop their characteristic soft texture and intense flavors.

Winegrowing at Stags' Leap

Estate fruit is complemented by longtime partnerships with some of the best growers in the Napa Valley and Carneros. The primary wine grape varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Syrah—are enhanced by plantings of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache, and Syrah.

In the 1980s, the winery undertook DNA testing to uncover the identities and sources of heritage vines on the property, especially the1930s field blend planting of Petite Syrah and other Rhône varietals in the Ne Cede Malis* block. The results were contributed to the research being conducted by UC Davis on the origin of the Petite Sirah variety and have been used to graft new vines, allowing the winery to retain much of its prime genetic material.

*Ne Cede Malis Sed Contra Audentior It, a sentiment from Virgil and a venerable head-trained vine. “Yield not to misfortune, but strive evermore against them.” This is the motto of the Chase family who founded the Stags’ Leap estate in 1888, and can be found written on an original stained glass window in our manor house tasting room.