97 points: Stags' Leap Winery, Stag's Leap District (Napa Valley, California) Petite Sirah Ne Cede Malis 2012 ($115):
“On rare occasions I indulge myself in that California oddity, Petite Sirah. Typically it is hard as nails when young (though that model seems to be changing) and lacking in the subtle complexities and overall elegance that make Cabernet Sauvignon, and increasingly Pinot Noir, the money red grapes in California. When I choose not to shun Petite, it's usually with good reason. And the best reason I can think of is the Stags' Leap Winery Petite that has been by far California's finest Petite for at least the past 30 years, but probably longer. This wine -- Ne Cede Malis Estate Petite Sirah -- from this estate is nothing less than a national treasure. The 2012 vintage is a blockbuster that shouldn't be missed providing you can lay your hands on a bottle. Fewer than 1000 cases were made. Rich and robust, with aromas of blackberry, black currant and dark cherry, it is well proportioned yet has elegance and nuance, such as the scent of violets and a hint of black pepper. It is, simply, a wine for the ages, unique to California, in fact unique to this particular property. There's nothing else quite like it.”
—Robert Whitley, Austin American-Statesman (Syndicated), December 1, 2015
“Sed Contra Audentior Ito” – Always Push Harder – was the latter part of the family motto of Stags' Leap Winery founder Horace Chase. Audentia is our tribute to this sentiment, crafted from an inimitable blend of estate vines that each year push to yield their most concentrated, yet nuanced and elegant fruit.
Drawing on his curiosity, Winemaker Christophe Paubert experimented with two varietals that have a rich and natural lineage with the estate – Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Notable for its distinct combination of power and elegance, Cabernet Sauvignon has long been the signature varietal of the Stags Leap District. Petite Sirah was planted on the property before the winery was established in 1893, and today it remains an essential part of the Estate′s winemaking legacy.
Framed by dramatic palisades on the east in an intimate valley within the greater Napa Valley, Stags’ Leap Winery is a place of natural beauty, a lively history, and a reputation for elegant wines. One to always push the envelope, Winemaker Christophe Paubert sought out to craft a blend that distinctly captures the essence of the Stags’ Leap Estate and all the beloved nuances that are a part of it.
Typically, this unique convergence of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah would be overpowered by Petite Sirah’s peppery and floral, bold nature, but Christophe took a particular liking to a block on the Estate that seemed to transcend the varietal’s classic characteristics. Contiguous to the historic Ne Cede Malis vineyard, Block 9 shares similar rocky soils to its neighboring block, yet produces fruit with traits unlike any other Petite Sirah. This mystical vineyard naturally produces half the yields of a typical block and the resulting fruit is incredibly concentrated with almost double the color and tannins than that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Unique to the Stags’ Leap Estate, this specific Petite Sirah block maintains the wonderful, highly concentrated black fruit flavors and power that are beloved of the varietal without the dominant spice and floral notes. This allows the Petite Sirah to be a wonderful counterpart to Cabernet Sauvignon, extracting power, richness and elegance from the varietal without diverting Cabernet from its essence. Blending this exceptional Petite Sirah with the hand selected lots of the Estate’s most distinctive Cabernet, the assemblage pushes Cabernet Sauvignon to a new level of power and concentration while still maintaining the winery’s signature touch of elegance.
To create a Cabernet Sauvignon that highlights the unique terroir of the Stags’ Leap’s estate vineyards, Winemaker Christophe Paubert kept each vineyard lot separate from initial picking until final blending. The wines were aged separately, Cabernet Sauvignon in French oak (60% new) for 20 months and Petite Sirah in neutral oak for 20 months. The final assemblage is a barrel selection of the most expressive lots that was blended just prior to bottling.