Since 1893: Napa Chardonnay from Stags’ Leap Winery

2022 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay

So surprised when I opened this bottle to find that it’s lean and grassy, more like a northern Burgundy white wine than a “typical” California chard. In fact I had a hard time believing that there’s no sauvignon blanc added to the chardonnay grapes, but I have to take the winery’s word for it. It opens in with a lively Chablis style in the nose, becoming somewhat rounder on the palate, where the oak barrel influence comes in: 25% fermented in new French oak barrels, and 50% in slightly older French oak. The finish is super tart.

If you want to geek out a little, you might like to know that this wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation, so it’s less buttery and creamy. Before bottling, for seven months the wine is stirred [the French term is bâtonnage] every other week, in order that contact with the lees can maintain its freshness and add texture.

One other thing: the first wines were produced at this winery in 1893; even that far back, the quality of the Stags Leap District of Napa was apparent.

For food pairing, think of this a spare, lively wine — great before the meal, and with some plain or light dishes.

WHO: Stags’ Leap Winery

WHAT: 100% chardonnay

WHERE: Napa Valley, California

HOW MUCH: $29 (media sample)