Perfect Mark 

100 Points – 2018 Kukeri Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Armed with an advanced winemaking degree plus a winery internship, passion and vision led Petar Kirilov from a small town in Bulgaria to Napa Valley nearly two decades ago. In 2013, he launched Kukeri Wines to focus primarily on small lots of quality Cabernet and a few Pinots and Chardonnays. “It’s a labor of love and care,” Kirilov said.

During the  unusual  summer  of  2020, he was able to reap the rewards by earning stellar results for Kukeri Wines  at  the Sunset International Wine Competition. Professional blind tasting panels  consisted of 36 industry experts who judged wines over three days. Petar Kirilov expressed his delight that 2018 Kukeri Wines Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon was recognized with a perfect 100 points and Best of Class plus a Double Gold award.

Only 290 cases were produced for this wine (concentrated flavors of ripe blackberry, dark cherry, ripe plum, fresh mountain herbs, and savory spices on the palate), which retails at $85. The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.6% Malbec, 2.8% Merlot, 2.1% Petit Verdot, and 1.5% Cabernet Franc. “I knew I had a winner, but I wasn’t expecting ‘best in class.’ What a nice surprise, especially in 2020, to have something positive happen. It means a lot to me and showcases the hard work and attention that’s gone into my small production.”

He is keen on these classic, unique sub-appellations for his big and bold Cabs, sourcing fruit from outstanding vineyards such as Howell Mountain, Rutherford, Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, and the concentrated, intense smaller berries produced by Mount Veeder vines.

At the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition, both the 2017 Kukeri Wines Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2017 Kukeri Wines Petaluma Gap Lakeville  Vineyard  Pinot Noir won Gold Medals. Plus, Kukeri’s 2018 Petaluma Gap Lakeville Vineyard Pinot Noir won a Best of Class, Double-Gold Medal, and 95 points from 2020 The Toast of the Coast Wine Competition.

There’s a historical connection between the brand story and the vibrant reddish-colored horned mask depicted on the distinctive Kukeri Wine label. Grape growing and wine production have a long legacy in Bulgaria. Some 8,000 years ago, Thracians held pagan fêtes throughout the Balkan peninsula, now comprising Bulgaria,  Greece,  and  Turkey. The Kukeri Festival continues, steeped in a mystical representation of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth whereby the celebrants’ elaborate costumes feature fearsomely decorated masks to represent animals and banish malevolent spirits. Among the festival’s personae is Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theater, and religious ecstasy.

“It means a lot to me and showcases the hard work and attention that’s gone into my small production.”

Kirilov explained the connection of his brand to ties with his homeland. “I carry history and culture from my small town in Bulgaria to Northern California to work with the excel- lent grapes that focus on their own story, and to let people know the quality Kukeri represents by being the very best small-lot wine it can possibly be.” Judging by the outstanding awards for Kukeri Wines in 2020, this is a goal accomplished.


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Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr