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From the Visitors Center to the estate vineyards and underground caves, a visit to Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley is a must-see feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Photo courtesy Stag’s Leap
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Taste of Wine: Morton’s, Stag’s Leap — a tale of two legends

We’ve all heard the saying, “when it rains, it pours.”  This was the case for Senior Editor Frank Mangio and me during our last week of media events before COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went into effect.  We attended three wine dinners that concluded with a Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Dinner at Morton’s The Steakhouse in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp District.

Morton’s General Manager Tim Reed, Sales and Event Manager Tanya Coffey and Assistant Manager/Sommelier Nicole Langerman pulled out all stops for this legendary wine dinner. This was evident with the kickoff of passed appetizers that included: Caviar Blini, Duck Rillettes, Fresh Oysters on the half-shell, and Passion Fruit Mignonette. These were complemented with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ AVETA Sauvignon Blanc with tangerine, guava, papaya, and lemon on the nose and orange on the palate resulting in great flavor combos. Jeff McIntyre, Key Account Specialist from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, represented Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and narrated the evening in concert with Tim Reed.

Taste of Wine and Food Tech Director Rico Cassoni, left, Morton’s Sales and Event Manager Tanya Coffey, TOWAF Senior Editor Frank Mangio and Morton’s General Manager Tim Reed. Photo courtesy Morton’s

Dinner launched with an arugula, burrata cheese, pear, and prosciutto salad topped with a white balsamic glaze. This was paired with Stag’s Leap KARIA Chardonnay. The chardonnay did a good job of bringing out the pear in the salad and complemented the acid in the balsamic glaze with the creaminess of the burrata cheese. Next up was the main course featuring a Porcini mushroom rubbed filet mignon. Anyone who has had the pleasure of enjoying a Morton’s The Steakhouse steak knows how good this was. The filet was tender, flavorful, and melt in your mouth and plated with wild mushrooms and roasted shallot butter. The Stag’s Leap ARTEMIS Cabernet Sauvignon was the perfect wine for the entrée with a boysenberry and dark cherry nose and flavors of plum and dark chocolate. It was a perfect “last dinner out” combo before temporary stay-at-home orders went into effect.

The evening ended with a platter of cheeses accented with fig jam, honeycomb and dried fruit.  The Stag’s Leap FAY Cabernet Sauvignon, with aroma of blueberry, boysenberry, and nutmeg, its black cherry palate and soft tannins and 20 months aging in new French oak, pulled this over-the-top cheese plate together.

Bravo, Bravo Tim and Tanya for making this another memorable Morton’s dinner for Frank and me and Jeff for your narration of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars history. Look forward to dining in after COVID-19 stay-at-home ends. Those salivating after reading this article can take advantage of their extensive takeout menu, Monday through Sunday, 3-8 p.m. They even have 50% off select bottles of wine with your to-go orders. If you want to be indulgent or have a special occasion that you do not want to skimp on during stay-at-home, Morton’s is sure to please!  Check out

— By Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni

Stag’s Leap – 50 years of award-winning wines

When Rico and I received word from Houston, home base for Morton’s The Steakhouse, that we would be the media invites for a prime San Diego Stag’s Leap Wine Dinner the first week in March, we were ecstatic!

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of those wineries that, almost immediately after its founding in 1970, made a bold imprint on all those around it in Napa Valley.

Napa Valley is full of heroes and heroics in its formative years in the 1960s and 70s. Names like Martini, Mondavi and Cakebread and grapes like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon became the wine names to know. In winemaking, it was Andre Tcheleischeff and Mike Grgich, with no background in snooty French wines, that ushered in a revolution of new ideas in the art of making fine wine. The team paired up at Mondavi, Beaulieu, and Chateau Montelena where Grgich’s life would change forever when his 1973 Chardonnay beat rival French winemakers for the best Chardonnay in the world in a blind tasting competition between Napa wines and the best French wines, in Paris in 1976.

Not as well-known but just as important was a young winemaker and recent owner from Stag’s Leap, who in just six years after his purchase of the winery, entered his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and beat his French Cab counterparts to claim the revered title for best Cab. His name was Warren Winiarski, a former professor in Chicago who had yearned for a “simpler life.”

The 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon stood out from other Napa Valley Cabs. Winiarski was quoted as saying he made a “sufficiently powerful wine that would combine both style and elegance, and not the huge strong wines of many of the other wineries in Napa.” Time Magazine made it their cover story, and the impossible happened … Napa Valley became the center for the world’s best wines, and the new California gold rush was on.

The most authoritative book on this historic event is Judgement of Paris, authored by George M. Taber. Visit Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars at





Al April 22, 2020 at 7:37 am

Frank you out there it’s good to see your still in the game hang in there my old friend. Stay safe.

Al Notargiacomo April 21, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Hey frank your old friend in crime al from Christ the king

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