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Black Stallion Estate Winery: Living the dream of generations

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Celebrating its centennial, Delicato Family Wines continues to build its reputation for terroir-driven quality, led by its flagship Napa Valley estate.

2024 marks the 100th anniversary of Delicato Family Wines, a venture that started when Gaspare and Caterina Indelicato planted their first vineyard in Manteca, California in 1924. Having emigrated from Sicily, the couple found a new home in the Central Valley city, seduced by a climate that resembled that of their homeland, and by the possibility of building their American dream founded on their family’s winegrowing heritage.

Realising the dream

One hundred years on, Delicato Family Wines is one of North America’s leading and fastest-growing wine companies. It is still family-owned and -run, and remains fiercely faithful to its founding ethos: entrepreneurial spirit married to winemaking craft. A rare combination of business savvy and passion for terroir has inspired four generations of the Indelicato family while building an incredible portfolio of estates and brands, without ever compromising on quality and expressiveness. ‘We have never lost sight of the fact that this is more than just a livelihood. It is the realisation of the dream of our father, grandfather and great-grandfather,’ second-generation family member Vince Indelicato (1933-2017) once shared.

Over its 100 years of history, Delicato’s portfolio has grown to include consumer favourites such as 1924 or Three Finger Jack, as well as the celebrated Francis Ford Coppola and Zac Brown ranges. While the breadth of the wines produced across all of the company’s brands stretches across different styles and price points, there are three key common denominators: quality, character and approachability. Offering affordable luxury and everyday pleasure is at the core of Delicato’s philosophy – a nod to the Sicilian roots of its founders.

Gaspare Indelicato (second right) at the Manteca winery in the 1920s

Striving for excellence

Following an initial foray into Napa Valley in 2000, the Indelicato family firmly laid roots in the iconic region with the acquisition of Black Stallion Estate Winery in 2010. Located on the famed Silverado Trail in the Oak Knoll District, the estate itself is steeped in tradition and history. Formerly the grounds of the Silverado Western Centre, a major equestrian compound, the estate pays tribute to this legacy through both its name and its respect for the landscape, where its 32 hectares of vineyards now grow.

These vineyards yield the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that serve as the raw material for Black Stallion’s renowned expressions of the variety, recognised for their depth of fruit, luscious tannins and ageability. Each vintage reiterates the company’s commitment to excellence and terroir expressiveness.

See all of Decanter’s tasting notes and scores for Black Stallion wines

Capturing terroir diversity

The winemaking team – led by German-born Ralf Holdenried, with fourth generation family winemaker Stephen Mathews as his right hand – runs a strict programme, focused  first and foremost on the distinctive character of each plot. The diversity of terroirs and mesoclimates in the Napa Valley takes centre stage and is honoured and leveraged to create balanced, expressive blends, shaped by the quality of the fruit. Having studied at the prestigious Geisenheim University and at UC Davis, Holdenried honed his craft at several esteemed Napa Valley wineries before joining Black Stallion in March 2014.

Ralf Holdenried, Director of Winemaking at Black Stallion

He has since consolidated a terroir-driven approach that relies on separately vinified parcels. Different fermentation vessels are carefully selected according to the idiosyncrasies of the distinct sites to arrive at carefully crafted blends. ‘The immense diversity of Napa Valley’s vineyards provides an inspirational palate for a winemaker,’ says Holdenried. ‘I am fortunate to have the opportunity to hand-select fruit from some of the finest sites throughout this region.’

Black Stallion wines have consistently been recognised by international critics, sommeliers and journalists alike. Not least by Decanter’s own Napa Valley correspondent, Jonathan Cristaldi, whose 2023 reports highlighted many of the estate’s wines (see below).

Sam Jasper Cabernet

Holdenried’s latest project, in collaboration with consulting winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, is the Sam Jasper Cabernet Sauvignon, a tribute to Gaspare Indelicato. ‘Sam Jasper’ was the anglicised name used by the company’s founder after settling in California. It also served as the name for his humble first winery in Manteca.

Sam Jasper Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The premium Cabernet Sauvignon conveys the authenticity, passion and perseverance that allowed Gaspare to fulfil his dream in America, and continues to motivate his descendants to build upon his success. Bottled unfined and unfiltered after 20 months in French oak barrels (90% new), only 518 cases (3 bottles/case) were produced and will now be released to mark Delicato Family Wines’ landmark anniversary. The wine also serves as a reminder that the quest for excellence is alive and well at Delicato Family Wines, serving as a guiding principle of an inspiring family history.


Tasting notes and scores for Black Stallion in Jonathan Cristaldi’s latest Napa report:

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