Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars — Mystery 1972 Vintage, New Owners not Interested


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Joe Becerra

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Stag’s Leap Cellars literally leaped into fame when it was a mere six years old. The winery stunned the wine world when its 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was selected as the best of the best at the famed 1976 Judgment of Paris. The Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon topped the first-growth French Bordeaux wines, shocking the French. The event gave credence to the Napa Valley as a bonified wine region of the world. Stag’s Leap Cellars has always touted this 1973 wine as its first vintage. But my wine friend Mike Beltran recently discovered something very interesting that had been hiding deep in his wine cellar, three bottles of 1972 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. How could this be?

As the story goes, Stag’s Leap Cellars made a 1972 Cab but it was never released to the public. Warren Winiarski, the famed founder and winemaker of Stag’s Leap, felt the wine needed more time to age and released his excellent 1973 Cabernet as the first official vintage of the winery. So how did Mike Beltran get three bottles of this mystery 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Cellars? While Mike was working at the Pacific Wine Shop in San Francisco, Warren Winiarski was good friends with the owner and apparently let him sell some of this wine. Mike had the good sense at the time to purchase three of these bottles. The price tag of $5.15 is still on the bottles.

Mike has a solid collection of wines and is always interested in wheeling and dealing treasured wines from his cellar. With that in mind off Mike and I went with his three bottles of 1972 Cab to Stag’s Leap Cellars to see if there was a chance for a good wine exchange. When we arrived, the two men working the tasting room were absolutely astounded to see the wine. They called in the tasting room manager who also eyeballed the wine with excitement. The tasting room manager explained that he was sure the winery would be interested in a trade, but he could not make the decision. He told us that the next week management would call Mike to negotiate. Indeed they did call early the next week. They told Mike the company has a no trade policy. Sorry Mike, but no thanks. That struck us as a little odd. Why not keep every historic bottle you could get your hands on? If it had been Warren Winiarski, he may have made the trade. But Warren sold the winery in 2007 to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Antinori Wines. Apparently, the corporate wine world sees things much differently. The “Mom and Pop” sentamentality does not necessarily translate into corporate strategy or higher profits. No matter what anyone says, a winery is going to be different once it is taken over by a big wine company.

It is sad to see many a winery in California sold to the big wine business world. The latest victim of this trend is the famous Sebastiani Vineyards of Sonoma County. The family claims the sale to the Foley Wine Group will keep the winery with its same family philosophy. When you are running several wineries, identities are lost and the history begins to fade as we witnessed with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar, not even making a minor attempt to keep some interesting memorabilia.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

24 thoughts on “Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars — Mystery 1972 Vintage, New Owners not Interested”

  1. Do you expect that properly cellared wines purchased from Stag’s Leap, (Cask 23, S.L.V, Fay, and Artemis) from 2005 and 2006 will be esteemed more valuable, since the 2007 sale of Stag’s Leap to a corporate wine company?

  2. Probably a bit tardy… but did the ’72 Cabs sell…? Might I forwardly ask the market value..? Thank you in advance.

  3. I just found a 72 Stag’s Leap Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon at an estate sale from a home in Auburn, CA. Could you please let me know the price you were able to realize with the sale of yours? You can reach me at: jadell@softcom.net

  4. I have a bottle of 1972 SLV and 1974 cask 23 if anyone is interested in owning them. My email address is ttp2@value.net. I will gladly tell you the story about how I came to own these and many, many other Stag’s Leap Wines.

    • Hi Pat,

      I hope someone is interested in the wine. Someday I would love to hear your story on the Stag’s Leap wine.


  5. Pat and Joe, the Stag’s Leap Cab was from a very small first release. I sold one bottle for $175 and that is a fair price considering I have been the only owner and it is in fact the first vintage produced. I am thinking of taking one of my remaining bottles to the Bloggers Convention in Seattle this summer and using it as a center piece for conversation and perhaps a Blog about the wine.. The bottles are still available to anyone who would like to buy either or both.

    • Mike, I hope you are able to bring one of these wines to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon. See you there!

  6. Hi Michael:

    Are your bottles labelled SLV? Unlike the new owners of the winery, I consider these bottles priceless because of their historical value. The price that you charged was more than fair. Ridge, for example, lists its 750 Library 1977 Monte Bello Cab at $400 and its Santa Cruz Mtns. 1978 Monte Bello Cab at $475. I think your buyer got an excellent bargain!

  7. Andrew R. is going to buy one of my last two bottles to celebrate his brothers 40th birthday !!! He is also interested in a ’72 Dujac …. There is still one bottle left..

  8. Hello Mike. Yes I did indeed purchase one for my bro’s b-day! It’s been a joy to trade with you!

    • I am happy this worked out for the two of you on this wine deal. I think Mike made out better by not trading the 1972 Stag’s Leap to the winery. The wine is a bit a history for the Napa Valley wine industry.

  9. Well there is one last bottle. It has the original price sticker $5.50 on the back… Anyone interested in a piece of Napa history? Actually it is cheaper than most current cult bottlings. Last bottle is just a little more..

    • Hey Mike,

      I think you should keep that bottle and carry it with you to the wine bloggers conference in Portland, Oregon. I would love to try it!

    • I am sure that someone out there in the wine world will want this bottle for their private collection.


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