Staglin Family Vineyard is tucked away in a little visited southern part of the Rutherford Appellation (despite being a very short drive from the often busy Highway 29). Their focus is on premium limited production wines; the winery was founded by Shari and Garen Staglin and family. Their appreciation for the Napa Valley began in the 1960’s – Garen attended Stanford Business School and would visit the Napa Valley during breaks in his schedule.
He and Shari lived in the San Francisco Bay area for a number of years and then in 1985 purchased a 50 acre piece of land owned by Beaulieu Vineyards at that time as well as another 12 acre adjoining parcel. Their first vintage was in 1986. This vineyard is one of Napa’s most historic – originally planted in the late 1860’s.
When the vineyard was owned by Beaulieu Vineyard, well regarded winemaker, soils and viticulture expert André Tchelistcheff originally helped convert what were prune orchards on the property back into vineyards – his viticulture knowledge played a prominent role in the types of vines planted here and how the vineyard was laid out. We’ve heard differing opinions on whether the grapes from these vines were used in the well-known Georges de Latour Private Reserve label that Beaulieu Vineyard popularized (and still makes today). Regardless this is one of Napa’s sweet spots for growing premium quality wine grapes.
Today the Staglin’s own nearly 62 acres of prime land in the heart of the Rutherford Appellation. Their 51 acres of vineyards are located on coveted bench land soils. These deep slightly gravelly brownish soils were formed during millions of years because of erosion and run off from the nearby Mayacamas mountains. As a result of this type of soil, its excellent drainage and the climate, this is excellent terroir for growing Cabernet Sauvignon.
The property is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and to two perhaps more surprising varietals – Chardonnay and Sangiovese. Chardonnay is generally planted in the southern part of the Napa Valley closer to the cooling influence of the San Pablo Bay; there is very little Chardonnay currently growing in Rutherford or Oakville. The Staglin’s chose to grow Chardonnay (instead of Cabernet Sauvignon) because Shari enjoys drinking wines from this varietal. Their wines are made entirely from estate grown grapes, other then a small amount of Chardonnay that they source.
Well regarded vineyard manager David Abreu is in charge of managing their vineyards – all of which are CCOF farmed organically (the Staglin’s were among the earlier Napa Valley adopters of the CCOF certification for organic farming). Solar cells on the property supply all of their energy needs. Staglin is in the enviable position on sunny days of providing extra energy back into the grid.
Highly sought after French based blending master Michel Rolland also consults for Staglin and helps with their final blending decisions. It is clear that Staglin’s focus is on quality and producing the best possible wines they can from their vineyard site.
The actual winery is completely underground; self contained within a 27,000 square foot cave system. Note the very high ceilings, they are much taller than most Napa winery caves. The only exposed portion of the winery is the crush pad located directly outside.
Besides their wines, Staglin is well known for their annual Music Festival for Brain Health event held on site every September. The inspiration for this event came after Shari and Garen’s son Brandon was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1990. Since the inaugural event in 1995 remarkably (as of 2019) they have raised 360 million dollars towards research and medicine for mental health related diseases. The music festival directly benefits One Mind, a research organization also co-founded by Garen and Shari, dedicated to finding cures for brain illnesses and injuries.
The Music Festival for Brain Health is one of (if not the largest) annual private Napa winery charity event; it is *the* winery event to attend in the valley. Typically well-known musicians will headline and about 75 of Napa Valley’s most exclusive wineries are on site pouring their own wines. Celebrity or other well-known chefs always prepare the gourmet dinner.
This is not the only fundraiser that Staglin supports; their wine is often one of the higher bids at the annual Auction Napa Valley and the Naples Winter Wine Festival. They do an amazing amount of work with charities and have directly contributed nearly 1 billion dollars to charity efforts over the years.
Their current production is around 7,000 cases. A second label, Salus is named after the Roman goddess for safety and welfare and includes a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% of the proceeds from the sales of these wines donated to research and treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The name for this wine came from a trip to Italy where the Staglin’s first noticed an image of this goddess on a coin.
The Salus wines are crafted to be more approachable in their youth. The 2005 Salus offers black fruit aromas including blackberry and black cherry. On the palate, the wine is supple with an intriguing velvet feel from start to finish. This wine is framed by good acidity and manageable tannins for early approach-ability. This vintage was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 Salus Cabernet Sauvignon has an elegant bouquet with a noticeable sweetness and ripeness of aroma. Also subtle floral and herbal aromas. Supple across the palate shows plenty of fruit – including flavors of blackberry and plum. Well integrated tannins complete a fairly soft finish. Drinks extremely well by itself.
The Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted to be a more robust wine that can be aged. The 2004 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon shows notes of cedar intermingled with ripe black cherry. This wine does not disappoint with ripe layers of flavor including plum, blueberries and subtle notes of pepper especially towards the finish. Good structure, good acidity and tasty fruit will ensure this wine will only age gracefully. There is a saying about the influences of soils in Rutherford on wines from this sub appellation, the ‘Rutherford dust’ it is called – this wine has a slightly dusty nuance towards the finish.
Dark ruby color in the glass, the 2014 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon shows a dark fruit component to the bouquet including blackberry and a sweet black licorice nuance. As the wine breathes dessert spices including cinnamon and mocha show. A juicy mouth watering palate features mostly darker fruit flavors. This wine simultaneously has a softness yet also a richness – it is well layered with depth of flavor. Structurally, the tannins are noticeable – but are well-integrated, they are not harsh. A fairly approachable wine in its youth from a vintage that generally showed well early on (as compared to the 2013s which tended to need more time in bottle). Offers a very long finish. Keep or drink now!
The Staglin Chardonnay does not go through secondary fermentation. The 2017 vintage is rich and well layered with aromas of orange, lemon and citrus blossom. There is a noticeable viscosity and a creamy feel across the palate – almost a bit saline in its texture or briny. Big but balanced with a very long finish – this is a memorable wine well worth seeking out for serious Chardonnay enthusiasts and collectors.
And film aficionados take note; Staglin has a direct connection to Hollywood – scenes from the 1998 version of The Parent Trap, starring a very young Lindsay Lohan were filmed at the Staglin’s home located in the hills east of the winery.
In 2007 Staglin purchased the historic Steckter House within their vineyards (built in 1864). It has been carefully restored and now serves as the primary hospitality center and tasting room. A tour and tasting is for serious wine enthusiasts and collectors and will include a quick overview of the vineyards, a visit to the cave and a sit down tasting in the Steckter House. The main dining rooms opens up onto a deck which faces east and overlooks down on their vineyards and parts of Rutherford and Oakville.
Staglin has limited international distribution including to parts of Asia (Japan and Hong Kong). And we have seen their wines at premium wine shops and restaurants in Bangkok, Thailand. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit: www.staglinfamily.com