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The decision to attend, or not attend, this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference weighed on me up until the moment I purchased my airline ticket.  Now back in North Vancouver and settled into my cozy home on the side of Grouse Mountain, I have caught myself reflecting upon lifelong memories made during this trip.

My conference experience started on Wednesday, November 8th with a pre-excursion to Napa Valley to visit Stags’ Leap Winery.  Founded in 1893 and one of California’s earliest wine estates, Stags’ Leap 85 acre vineyard nestles up against the Stags Leap Palisades – the most prominent geographical feature of the Stags Leap District AVA.



The history of the estate and the people who lived there is incredible, complete with a tale of an illegal speakeasy during the Prohibition times in the United States.  Stags’ Leap was named after a native Wappo legend of a brave stag leaping across an impossible crossing to escape hunters – a fitting metaphor for the strength of the Napa Valley and Sonoma County people after the fires this October.

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During our visit, we had the pleasure of tasting through Stags’ Leap sumptuous wines with the charming and talented winemaker, Christophe Paubert:

  • 2016 Napa Valley Viognier:  Fresh peach, a delicate hint of honeysuckle, nicely balanced acidity. Fermented in neutral French oak barrels, aged on lees with no malolactic fermentation.  Possibly the most enjoyable Viognier I have ever had.
  • 2016 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay:  This Chardonnay delivers complexity, balance and a stunning array of flavours such as freshly cut pineapple, lemon infused whipped cream and gently toasted almonds.  #Chardcore
  • 2014 Block 20 Merlot, Stags Leap District, Estate Grown:  A beautifully feminine and elegant expression of Merlot, it displays a delightful flavour profile of warm plums, a dusting of mocha, hints of chocolate and the vibrancy of bright red cherries. Fermented for 18 months in French oak barrels.
  • 2014 Twelve Falls Red Blend, Stags Leap District, Estate Grown: This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petite Sirah and 10% Merlot from the vineyards that surround the Manor House.  Deeply satisfying and rich with notes of blackberry jam, white pepper, crushed violets, and cinnamon.
  • 2014 The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Estate Grown: Made by selecting only the best plots for this wine, in Paubert’s words, “this wine is the essence of what a Cabernet Sauvignon is.” Rich with flavours of black currant, pepper, eucalyptus, and blackberry.  This is a ‘collection’ wine and one to lay down and open on a special day.
  • 2014 Ne Cede Malis Petite Sirah, Stags Leap District, Estate Grown: Translates to ‘don’t give into misfortune’, this Petite Sirah dominant (85%) wine is a blend of 17 grape varieties.  This is the oldest vineyard plot on the estate planted in 1929 and is considered a field blend.  Here is a big, bold, delicious red wine – think Canadian back bacon drizzled with maple syrup alongside crushed blueberry and blackberry jam from the garden and a cup of freshly poured coffee.  ‘Ne Cede Malis’ can be tucked away for at least 20 years.

The Treasury Wine Estates pre-excursion to Stags’ Leap Winery was the perfect start to this year’s conference in Santa Rosa, California.  I am happy that I went and supported #sonomastrong.

Was it the wine? Yes, sometimes.  Was it the people I met? Yes, most of the time.  And, what is wine without people behind the story – people who made a decision to follow a dream or conquer a fear – who decided to grow grapes, purchase land, put in the time, effort and tears to see something through…This year, I met some standout people and drank some standout wine and learned a few things along the way.