Is there a more magical time of year than the Summer Solstice, when the night gives way to day, with more moments of sunshine in which to play? We think not. The stuff of legends going back to ancient times, the Summer Solstice was thought to be a time when nymphs and faeries dwelled among humans, sparking fun, creativity and merriment. Whether you believe in magic or not, there’s no harm in giving it a try.
The longest day of the year is the perfect time to open a wine filled with mirth and warmth: even better, a wine from a storied vineyard that packs its own myth. That would be Stagecoach Vineyard® in Napa Valley, California, named for the stagecoach that ran through the property between Oakville and Monticello in the 19th century. And that wine would be the 2019 Gracianna Stagecoach Vineyard® Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, yet another gift from the winery that sports a festive red-bowed gift box on its label, representing an expression of gratitude for all things treasured in this life.
The first Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to be produced by Gracianna brings one of the finest and most iconic vineyards in Napa Valley into the sphere of a premium Russian River Valley Pinot Noir house. Known for gently powerful Sonoma Pinot Noirs that favor soft ripe fruit and lush textures, it’s no wonder that a Cabernet from Gracianna combines approachability with ageability. It delivers splendidly on the melding of expressive hillside fruit like cassis and blackberry, along with rich dark chocolate-covered blueberries, earthy depth, a touch of black pepper and robust coffee, carried artfully on the luxurious mouthfeel to a long-distance finish.
Fittingly, Stagecoach Vineyard is the largest contiguous planting of vines in Napa Valley. It’s a 1300-acre property on which more than 600 acres are under vine. Planting this steep hilly land that overlooks Oakville and Yountville in the Napa Valley appellation required removing millions of pounds of volcanic rock to make way for planting grapevines. Just putting vines into this hallowed ground, filled with subterranean secrets, and blessed with an extreme diurnal shift of night to daytime temperatures, was a labor of love and determination.
With an average daytime high temperature of around 88° degrees during the growing season, the nocturnal temperatures drop to around 55° degrees, which slows sugar accumulation and leads to long slow ripening. Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is generally not harvested until late October.
Such a unique climate and setting, along with meticulous hand-farming, creates highly sought-after fruit, with iconic Napa wineries sourcing from the vineyard year after year, and many more wishing they could do so.
This isn’t the first Cabernet Sauvignon rodeo for the winery, though. Gracianna Winery’s initial foray into this grape was the 2018 Gracianna Lutèce Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the Napa Valley floor in St. Helena, which garnered three Gold medals and a Double Gold from the world’s most prestigious wine competitions. Lutèce is the medieval name for Paris, from which winery co-owner Trini Amador III’s French Basque great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga, disembarked for America from her ancestral home in the Pyrenees.
Lasaga and her family were sheepherders, settling in Santa Barbara and then Santa Maria, California. Amador remembers his maternal great-grandmother as always filled with life and gratitude, and it was in her honor that the family founded the winery in 2005 and graced it with her name. Gracianna Winery’s brand promises “wines for those with something to be grateful for,” and each wine represents a note of thanks for all that converged to make it possible.
A poignant short film directed by Elliot deBruyn, called “Gratitude,” which was submitted to the Cannes Short Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Manhattan Film Festival, and Napa Valley Film Festival, can be viewed here: Grateful
With the impending debut of the 2019 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Gracianna is taking the next step in its evolution and expanding its collection of noteworthy wines.
On such an occasion, Lisa Amador, whose family name is attached to one of the earliest California settlers, pauses to reflect. “Using Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyard is a pinnacle moment for us as a winery. We will never lose sight of what a privilege it is to be part of the winegrowing community and to be stewards of the land, from which all great things come. To share a bit of Napa’s rich history through a beautiful and collectible example such as this wine, makes us grateful. We hope collectors of great Cabernet Sauvignon, along with lovers of accessible wines that can be enjoyed right now, gift themselves the opportunity to experience our instant classic Stagecoach Vineyard release from Gracianna.”
Only 142 cases of this wine will be released on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2022.
Already acknowledged by several wine competitions and reviewers, the wine scored Double Gold at the 2022 Los Angeles Invitational Wine Challenge, where judges awarded it 98 points, declaring it a “massive Cab,” noting the “lovely aromatics, roasted coffee bean, dark chocolate, mocha and complex, beautiful tannins.”
Additionally, the wine was awarded Gold at the 2022 Sommeliers Choice Awards (94 points) and described as “a fruit-forward nose driven by black plum, fig, prune black cherry combined with earthy notes of agave, brown sugar, and mezcal. Dry red wine with robust flavors of ripe red and black berries,” a Gold medal awarded at the 2022 North Coast Wine Challenge and a Gold at the 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition (93 points). The esteemed James Suckling notes the wine is “…spicy on the nose with clove and cinnamon to the black fruit. It’s medium-bodied with firm, creamy tannins and a juicy finish,” while Sonoma County’s Press Democrat says “Tangy, high-toned fruit of cherry, cranberry and a hint of pomegranate. Balanced, with crisp acid. Silky texture. Striking. 4.5/5 stars.”
Well-built and muscular as a horse fit to pull a stagecoach, this pedigreed Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, offered at Sonoma County prices, belongs in your cellar.
The 2019 Gracianna Stagecoach Vineyard® Cabernet Sauvignon ($128) can be ordered directly from Gracianna and will be shipped subject to hot weather shipping considerations) starting June 21, 2022 at www.gracianna.com/purchase.
by Laura Ness, wine author, columnist and judge