Why Does JL Hate Stags' Leap Wine Cellars So Much??

Don't think I've seen a review above 84..Seems so strange with such a storied winery and other critics being MUCH kinder....

I know he has brett sensitivities, etc. but come on, he seems so off base with their wines that it's tough to take him seriously on others that to my palate are inferior or of equal quality.

I know it's subjective, but it feels like there is more to the story....
Original Post
JL seems all over the road but he does not seem to like classically styled Napa cabs. Clos du Val similarly gets dissed. I don't think these wines show well when tasted blind against the typical bolder and more fruit forward style. Although both wineries put out some average wines over the past decade, my impression (from limited tastings) is that they are putting out a better product in recent vintages. Hopefully they can keep it up.
I don't think it's at all true that "classically" styled wines don't show well against fruit-forward wines. Quite the opposite in my experience. I think JL just doesn't like SL because the wines have sucked for years. They've been coasting on their reputation for a long time.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
I don't think it's at all true that "classically" styled wines don't show well against fruit-forward wines. Quite the opposite in my experience. I think JL just doesn't like SL because the wines have sucked for years. They've been coasting on their reputation for a long time.


Maybe in your experience, but you are not JL. I have had the privilege to be involved in many blind tastings where "old world" or "restrained styled" wines didn't show well against "new world" competition. Just trying to make sense of the OP's question. And yes, SL wines have "sucked" for a while but may be making a comeback. Time will tell.
quote:
Originally posted by IT:

Don't think I've seen a review above 84...


It would appear you're not looking very hard. Here's the scores JL actually gave them for the last few years:

2010 - 88 (only 1 WS review so far)
2009 - 84,83,91,89,88
2008 - 92,86,87,87,88,87,82
2007 - 82,84,80,84,85,87,87

Of his last 20 reviews, 13 are over 84 pts.

I don't hate this winery. I've had only a very few of their wines in the last decade because, in my experience, they dropped significantly in quality after the mid-1990s, and I don't seek them out any more. I used to buy Fay and SLV quite regularly, but stopped because they just weren't worth the price in my market. Which of their wines do you find are really good now, and worth buying at their price point?

"Hate" is a pretty strong word for you to apply to JL in your subject line, especially with nothing to back it up. What makes you think it's personal and not objective?
quote:
Originally posted by Red guy in a blue state:
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
I don't think it's at all true that "classically" styled wines don't show well against fruit-forward wines. Quite the opposite in my experience. I think JL just doesn't like SL because the wines have sucked for years. They've been coasting on their reputation for a long time.


Maybe in your experience, but you are not JL. I have had the privilege to be involved in many blind tastings where "old world" or "restrained styled" wines didn't show well against "new world" competition. Just trying to make sense of the OP's question. And yes, SL wines have "sucked" for a while but may be making a comeback. Time will tell.


OK. Neither of us is JL. In your experience "restrained" styles don't show well against "new world" styles. You probably have done more blind tastings than I have, and while I don't know who you're tasting with, I've never seen evidence that "restrained" styles don't show well against "new world" styles.

If people have any experience and they're halfway decent tasters, a well-made wine shows as a well-made wine, and JL's been tasting for a long time.

About 20 some years ago when I started doing weekly blind tastings, I was somehow able to pick out Stags Leap thru dumb luck and also thru the fact that it was bretty and green and just not that good. With the Antinori involvement, the wines may become better.
I stand corrected as I just reviewed the latest WS issue and he certainly was a bit more kind than originally communicated.

That said, he is certainly more unkind to this winery than other critics...

The same appears true with other Napa icons, Freemark Abbey, etc.


quote:
Originally posted by Seaquam:
quote:
Originally posted by IT:

Don't think I've seen a review above 84...


It would appear you're not looking very hard. Here's the scores JL actually gave them for the last few years:

2010 - 88 (only 1 WS review so far)
2009 - 84,83,91,89,88
2008 - 92,86,87,87,88,87,82
2007 - 82,84,80,84,85,87,87

Of his last 20 reviews, 13 are over 84 pts.

I don't hate this winery. I've had only a very few of their wines in the last decade because, in my experience, they dropped significantly in quality after the mid-1990s, and I don't seek them out any more. I used to buy Fay and SLV quite regularly, but stopped because they just weren't worth the price in my market. Which of their wines do you find are really good now, and worth buying at their price point?

"Hate" is a pretty strong word for you to apply to JL in your subject line, especially with nothing to back it up. What makes you think it's personal and not objective?
Well, that does sound consistent with his preference. I haven't had any recent SLWC wines, so have no basis to compare my more traditional perspective on those wines to his reviews. But, more broadly I'm not able to read one of his reviews and have any degree of confidence if I'll like the wine or not. Sometimes it's just better to ignore a critic than complain.
GregT: Thanks for bringing some data to the question of James Laube and Stags Leap Wine Cellars.

Let me add that since all our reviews of new releases come from blind tastings, whether a reviewer "hates" a winery has no bearing on the evaluation. (If such an emotion is really conceivable.)

As far as SLWC is concerned, IT and others may be interested in a blog about the winery Laube posted in August (http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/47201).

Senior editors' blogs are member benefits (a good reason to subscribe to our Web site), but I'll give you a taste:

"After nearly a decade of mediocre red wines, many flawed by the spoilage yeast brettanomyces, the owners of this once prominent Napa Valley winery have released the first vintage of what seem to be clean, complex Cabernets.

"All three of the 2009 Cabernets I tried in a blind tasting yesterday—Fay ($95, 3,300 cases made), S.L.V. ($120, 2,200 cases) and Cask 23 ($210, 1,800 cases)—exhibited pure, ripe, elegant flavors and none of the off-tasting earthiness and bitterness found in past years.

"Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Piero Antinori purchased Stag's Leap in 2007, and they acknowledged the problems with its cellar and wines. And they've rectified it."

I hope this clarifies some of the questions raised in this thread.
Yep - as Tom pointed out above.

And it should be good for the winery because that partnership has shown that they're capable of consistently making good wines. I remember when JL's article Tom posted came out and I was thinking then that it may be worth re-visiting the wines because he seemed to have objected to the same things I did.
quote:
"Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Piero Antinori purchased Stag's Leap in 2007, and they acknowledged the problems with its cellar and wines. And they've rectified it."



We hope so, but remains to be seen. I have dissed SL for last few years my self. Bad wines and really off their prior sucesses.
quote:
Originally posted by Red guy in a blue state:
JL seems all over the road but he does not seem to like classically styled Napa cabs. Clos du Val similarly gets dissed. I don't think these wines show well when tasted blind against the typical bolder and more fruit forward style. Although both wineries put out some average wines over the past decade, my impression (from limited tastings) is that they are putting out a better product in recent vintages. Hopefully they can keep it up.


I've always been a fan of clos du val as they keep their wines very affordable.

I just popped some 92s and 87s and a mag of 80 all from the winery and for me the clos du vals age very gracefully.

oh and James who?
quote:
Originally posted by Stefania Wine:
quote:
Originally posted by yhn:
But, more broadly I'm not able to read one of his reviews and have any degree of confidence if I'll like the wine or not. Sometimes it's just better to ignore a critic than complain.


+1

+2

And whether the "issues" with the winery/winemaking have been resolved or not, one issue remains - as evidenced by TM's post above - the release prices for their wines do not relect a winery that wishes to restore its reputation.
In the case of Stag's Leap, it looks like this is more a case of of a critics opinion that should be heeded rather than ignored. The wines were indeed mediocre, and all to often Brett affected.
I'm in the camp that is happy to continue passing on their wines at the asking price, even if they are cleaned up.
There is a good reason that these "icons" has not been receiving good scores. The simple fact is they were making better wine back in '80s, '70s or even '60s than they are making today.

To me, BV being probably the most tragic of them all. Diluting their vineyards to way too many brand extensions and increased productions just about killed any prestige they had from the early days.

SLWC, Freemark Abbey, Mayacamas, Diamond Creek, Silver Oak and many other were all making better wine back in the days than present time.

For that matter, I can't think of one single winery that made their name in the '70s or earlier and is making better wine today.
quote:
Originally posted by pape du neuf:
Ridge?


Ridge has definitely maintained the quality, but I wouldn't necessary say they are making better Monte Bello today than they did back in the '60s and '70s.

Hanzell on the other hand I have no opinion on. They certainly does have a following, but I don't think it's in the same conversation.
quote:
For that matter, I can't think of one single winery that made their name in the '70s or earlier and is making better wine today.


I'd have to give that credit to Heitz "Martha's Vineyard." I have yet to come across a less than stellar bottle from the 70's - Present.

No doubt, Ridge MB is right there too.

As for Stag's Leap WC, I actually wrote a yelp review on this same topic. The Mrs. & I did their premium tour/ tasting about a year and a half ago, as I am fascinated with the history of the place. Well...like the wine, it sucked...bad.

It's a shame too, as I have been fortunate to taste some excellent SLV's & Cask 23's from the late 70's / 80's.

It kind of makes me wonder; Where will the Harlan's, Screagle's, or Scarecrow's be 20 years from now?
quote:
Originally posted by pyang:
There is a good reason that these "icons" has not been receiving good scores. The simple fact is they were making better wine back in '80s, '70s or even '60s than they are making today.

To me, BV being probably the most tragic of them all. Diluting their vineyards to way too many brand extensions and increased productions just about killed any prestige they had from the early days.

SLWC, Freemark Abbey, Mayacamas, Diamond Creek, Silver Oak and many other were all making better wine back in the days than present time.

For that matter, I can't think of one single winery that made their name in the '70s or earlier and is making better wine today.


For the uninitiated such as myself, what Napa or Sonoma wineries would you steer me towards as one who leans heavily towards California Cabs? A winery that makes a decent lower-end Cab priced in the $20's for instance?

Thanks,
Steve
quote:
A winery that makes a decent lower-end Cab priced in the $20's for instance?


Steve, it's getting pretty tough to find decent Napa Cabs in that price point. Vintage dependent, they do exist though. A couple of suggestions:

- 2009/10 Beringer "Knights Valley" Cab Sauv.

- Keenan Cab Sauv. (You can find this < $30)

- Justin Cab Sauv. (Not Napa, but decent juice)

- 2007/08 Waterstone Cab Sauv. (One of those "they get their fruit from a premium producer" kind of wine. Still decent though.)

- Sika Cab Sauv. (Same as above. Although, I like their Merlot better. Supposedly, the fruit comes from Pahlmeyer)

* In reference to the OP, I recently bought an '07 Stags Leap WC "Artemis" for around $35 at Costco. This stuff was garbage. I could never in good faith, recommend this to anybody. Even at this price (I think it normally retails for around $50), it's probably the worst QPR wine for me this year.

If you care to branch out a bit, I have had good luck with a few Italian "Super Tuscans" in the $20-30 range.

The '07/08 2007 Tolaini Valdisanti Tenuta S. Giovanni Toscana IGT, for example, is not only one of the best QPR buys for me this year, it might be the best ever. Cheers.
quote:
Please tell me where to find it at this price. I have never seen it for less than $40.


I have purchased this wine at a couple different LWS for less than $30.

"3rd Corner," in Encinitas, CA, had this for around $28. They had quite a few cases on the floor too.

"North County Wine Co." currently has the '07 in stock for $34.97. If you sign up for their newsletter, I believe they knock off 10% from the first purchase. North County Wine Co. has a nice selection of Keenan stuff, to include the "Reserve Cab. & Mernet Reserve." Everything is aggressively priced here.

http://www.northcountywinecomp...=keenan&catalog=true

The Cab Sauv. goes on sale at Bevmo from time to time as well. My local Bevmo also has their '04 & '05 Merlot for $29 (Very nice, BTW).

I was just in Milwaukee, and also saw the '07 at "Discount Liquor" for < $30. If you're ever in Wisconsin, check this place out. I have had some shockingly good buys here for premium Bordeaux (As of late, a '95 La Mission Haut Brion, '96 Las Cases, '98 Ducru, among others...).

Like most people, I enjoy searching for deals.
I was reminded I am a wine geek when I had to spend a few minutes debating whether the OP was referring to Stags' Leap or Stag's Leap. Yes, it became apparent that the latter (SLWC) was what was being referenced. But the placement of the apostrophe made me pause.....
quote:
Originally posted by fusionstorm:
I was reminded I am a wine geek when I had to spend a few minutes debating whether the OP was referring to Stags' Leap or Stag's Leap. Yes, it became apparent that the latter (SLWC) was what was being referenced. But the placement of the apostrophe made me pause.....

fusionstorm- Is there a correlation between your board name and your place of employment? Smile
quote:
Originally posted by Shane T.:
quote:
Please tell me where to find it at this price. I have never seen it for less than $40.


I have purchased this wine at a couple different LWS for less than $30.

"3rd Corner," in Encinitas, CA, had this for around $28. They had quite a few cases on the floor too.

"North County Wine Co." currently has the '07 in stock for $34.97. If you sign up for their newsletter, I believe they knock off 10% from the first purchase. North County Wine Co. has a nice selection of Keenan stuff, to include the "Reserve Cab. & Mernet Reserve." Everything is aggressively priced here.

http://www.northcountywinecomp...=keenan&catalog=true

The Cab Sauv. goes on sale at Bevmo from time to time as well. My local Bevmo also has their '04 & '05 Merlot for $29 (Very nice, BTW).

I was just in Milwaukee, and also saw the '07 at "Discount Liquor" for < $30. If you're ever in Wisconsin, check this place out. I have had some shockingly good buys here for premium Bordeaux (As of late, a '95 La Mission Haut Brion, '96 Las Cases, '98 Ducru, among others...).

Like most people, I enjoy searching for deals.


Thx highly appreciated.
quote:
Originally posted by fusionstorm:
Maybe. Depends on who's asking..... Wink

I recently attended a local seminar hosted by one of our key product manufacturers, and I happened to notice that one of the engineers had received an email with "Fusionstorm" in the signature.

It appears that we work in a similar industry.

P.S. Apologies to everyone for the thread drift.
quote:
Originally posted by gigabit:
quote:
Originally posted by fusionstorm:
Maybe. Depends on who's asking..... Wink

I recently attended a local seminar hosted by one of our key product manufacturers, and I happened to notice that one of the engineers had received an email with "Fusionstorm" in the signature.

It appears that we work in a similar industry.

P.S. Apologies to everyone for the thread drift.

A little thread drift never hurt anyone.

Yes, it sounds like you're involved in the IT industry in some capacity. I just sell the stuff...... Razz
quote:
Originally posted by nodakgus:
For the uninitiated such as myself, what Napa or Sonoma wineries would you steer me towards as one who leans heavily towards California Cabs? A winery that makes a decent lower-end Cab priced in the $20's for instance?

Thanks,
Steve


I am not sure where you live at, but if your local Costco carries wine, check them out, good starting point.
..Interesting responses, my post was a 'perception' and a bit untrue when the facts were checked and I corrected myself...

All said, I like the wines and always have, so once again, all in the eye of the beholder.

I'm sure this MUST happen, but I wonder if the wineries get fed up with certain writers and 'ban' them from their facilities? A lot of the game is about ego, and I'm certain this must be a practice of sorts...

Cheers,

- Ian
^^^
That would certainly explain the gaps in coverage in the WS ratings database. I see more than a few producers who suffer a couple of mid 80s scores for consecutive vintages, and there will be a noticeable gap of vintages thereafter until a better scoring vintage appears (if at all).

Philip Togni is one example.
Not sure if its been mentioned, but obviously a large part of JL's issue is brett. JL claims to be able to detect brett down to 3 ppb, a threshold that probably puts him in the .005% of the population that can taste it at that level. He then kills the wines, score wise. If he even imagines brett, which at some of those low levels I believe happens some times, the wine gets hammered.

Second point is that with many of the WS writers, if the wine is not in the new style; huge up front fruit, big oak, higher alcohol, drink now, the wine will see lower scores overall.

As to some of the other comments, it is undeniable accurate to say that as wineries and brands sold out to the huge conglomerants, overall wine quality decreased. On this departing note, I am really looking forward to see what Coppola can/will do with Inglenook wines now that he has reunited the winery/vineyards. I look forward to those wines, in about 5 years, after he has had the opportunity to transform those great vineyards.
SLWC is not what it once was, however, JL does not like wines that don't drink well straight out of the gate. It is just his preference. What is truly interesting is wines that he loved young (97 Napa Cabs come to mind) are not so loved by him at 15 years.

His constant low scoring on Dominus tells me all I need to do know about his tastes and preferences.

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