Anyone remember which appellation put Napa Valley on the map? It was a little area on the east side of the valley called the Stags Leap District. A bottle of 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon beat out the likes of M0uton-Rothschild and Haut -Brion to win the Judgement of Paris in 1976. Lucky for all of us, the entirety of the Napa Valley has continued that momentum, but it’s wines like this 2008 Hartwell Miste Hill Cabernet that remind me what makes the Stags Leap District such a special place for growing Cabernet.
Hartwell Miste Hill is one of my absolute favorite Cabernets. I’ve been hoarding my last three bottles of the 2006 vintage and, though I have many more expensive bottles, this is the one I think about most often. When it came time to celebrate my birthday at a Chicago steakhouse, I passed over my Caymus, Beringer Private Reserve and Joseph Phelps for a bottle of 2008 Hartwell Miste Hill. I’m actually getting a little Miste just thinking about it!
This wine pours an inky purple/red that indicates quality and concentration right out of the gate. A rich nose of dark fruit and vanilla is accented by mineral tones that set Stags Leap District wines apart from their neighbors. Stags Leap’s average temperature is cooler than most of the valley but this “valley within a valley” heats up quickly in the morning and cools quickly at night, making a truly unique micro-climate that creates balance and freshness. This wine is massive on the palate but somehow maintains a finesse that flows through the broad, lengthy finish.
I’ve visited Hartwell and can attest to the high end wine making practices, equipment and attention that goes into each of their wines. There are truly no expenses spared here from the custom concrete egg fermenters imported from France, to the 100% new Bordeaux barrels. Read about my Hartwell tasting experience here.
This is one of the most impressive Cabernets coming out of Napa Valley today and at under $40/bottle, it’s also one of the best values.