Shafer

A California First-Growth

In the Stags Leap District, Cabernet Sauvignon is king. The well-drained volcanic soils and climate cooled by regular San Pablo Bay fogs produce cabs that are silky, supple and voluptuous: “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” While the Stags Leap District is now world class, when John Shafer moved his family there from Chicago in 1973, it was a place of rocky hillsides and rundown vineyards and orchards. At that time, “up-valley” was the focus of premium winemaking whereas this rocky corner of the valley did not even have an agreed-upon name. But as the land was affordable and had supported vineyards in the past, John Shafer decided it was the place to pursue his dream in wine. Shafer Vineyards is a moderately-sized, family-owned operation whose pursuit of quality in both viticulture and winemaking helped define not only their own winery but the Stags Leap District as well. At the start it was just John and his son Doug doing everything, from terracing the hillsides, to planting vines, to making and selling the wine. Doug was only 17 when he began helping his father transform the old farm into a modern vineyard. He went on to study enology at UC Davis and became Shafer’s winemaker in 1983. Success came quickly to Shafer Vineyards, with its very first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon winning the prestigious San Francisco Vintner’s Club taste-off. Shafer’s Hillside Select, the winery’s showcase made from 100% Cabernet grown on the steep slopes surrounding the winery, became a benchmark that epitomized the complexity, richness and elegance of the Stags Leap District. While Shafer built its reputation on its Cabernets, the winery also produces Merlot and Syrah from estate vineyards just outside the Stags Leap District as well as Chardonnay from Carneros. Shafer’s 2008 Relentless, a blend of Syrah and Petite Syrah was selected as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for 2012.  Despite success and high demand for its wines, Shafer Vineyards chose to remain small enough to be manageable, capping growth at about 32,000 cases. In addition to John and Doug Shafer, that team includes Elias Fernandez, who joined in 1984 and has been winemaker since 1994. The charm of drinking a glass of Shafer wine comes from knowing that the folks who made it are so intimately acquainted with the land, the vineyards and even the individual vines. In this age of global conglomerates, it is a quality that deserves to be cherished.

Wines from this Winery

2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot (375ml)

2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot (375ml)

Preparing a fine meal for a special someone? Shafer’s 2014 Merlot will certainly rock that feast. And the convenient 375 ml bottle size allows you to enjoy more than one fine wine over the course of the evening. 2014 saw yet another ideal Napa Valley vintage of warm days, cool nights and few days of extreme temperatures. Though the wine is labeled as Napa Valley, the grapes were sourced from a rocky hillside just south of the Stags Leap District, a vineyard near Yountville and the rest from with the SLD. This year the blend includes 14% Malbec, which deepens the color and adds both juiciness and savory note, and 8% Cabernet for darker fruit and tannic structure.The wine is rich with explosive fruit yet still chewy and somewhat tight, suggesting great potential for evolution in the bottle. It should pair well with meat dishes that have some fruit in the sauce, like duck breast with dried cherry sauce.

Details
¥ 5,000
2015 Shafer

2015 Shafer "Red Shoulder Ranch" Chardonnay

Shafer’s Chardonnay is sourced not from Stags Leap District but Carneros, the coolest of Napa AVAs that suits this early-ripening variety to a T. By fermenting the wine in new French oak but forgoing a second, malolactic fermentation, Shafer has produced a Chardonnay with exquisite balance, being luscious and rich but also fresh and vibrant. Robert Parker has called Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, “one of the best non-malolactic, barrel-fermented Chardonnays in California.” As with all of Shafer’s vineyards, the Red Shoulder Ranch is farmed sustainably, with pests controlled by natural predators – such as the Red-Shouldered Hawks that prey upon gophers. The vineyard is planted to several low-yielding Chardonnay clones that produce small, flavorful bunches. According to the winemaker, the dry conditions in 2015 produced a lighter crop of smaller berries that were packed with flavor and excellent color. Full-bodied and rich yet bright and focused, the wine has bright acidity and minerality to balance out and give structure to the sensual aromas and flavors. 

Details
¥ 9,200
2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot

2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot

Though Shafer has been producing Merlot for 30 years, Doug Shafer believes they are still learning how to best deal with this tricky grape. Merlot requires a lot of attention in the vineyard, and Shafer’s crews are out throughout the season, thinning excess leaves and culling bad fruit, so that only the best bunches of grapes will make their way to the winery. 2014 saw yet another ideal Napa Valley vintage of warm days, cool nights and few days of extreme temperatures. Though the wine is labeled as Napa Valley, the grapes were sourced from a rocky hillside just south of the Stags Leap District, a vineyard near Yountville and the rest from with the SLD. This year the blend includes 14% Malbec, which deepens the color and adds both juiciness and savory note, and 8% Cabernet for darker fruit and tannic structure.The wine is rich with explosive fruit yet still chewy and somewhat tight, suggesting great potential for evolution in the bottle. It should pair well with meat dishes that have some fruit in the sauce, like duck breast with dried cherry sauce.

Details
¥ 9,600
2015 Shafer

2015 Shafer "TD-9" Napa Valley

Shafer’s new proprietary blend of 56% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Malbec commemorates…. the tractor John Shafer drove to haul the rocks and cultivate the hillside that would become Shafer Vineyards. He was a man in his late forties, who left a comfortable job and home in Chicago to plant a vineyard in California when he knew next to nothing about farming. And learning to drive the ancient TD-9 International Harvester tractor was, perhaps, emblematic of the risks he took in starting that new life. In some ways the wine, TD-9, represents a similar bold move, for this is a Bordeaux blend in which Merlot (rather than Cabernet) is dominant and Malbec plays a significant role. Bottled on their own, Merlot and Malbec can each be delicious. In the TD-9 blend, however, Malbec deepens the color and adds dark plum and violet notes and acidity to the red-fruit tones and soft texture of Merlot; Cabernet provides the tannic structure and minerality we associate with the Stags Leap district. Despite the relatively high (15.3%) alcohol and 20 months aging in new French oak, TD-9 is a vibrant wine that explodes with complex fruit and teases with spicy, floral, and earthy notes. 

Details
¥ 9,900
2014 Shafer

2014 Shafer "One Point Five" Cabernet Sauvignon

Why 1.5? From the start of Shafer Winery, father and son learned on-the-job; hence, they both belong to the same “generation and a half.” One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Borderline Vineyard, located at the broad, sunny end of the Stags Leap District, as well as the Hillside Estate Vineyard. Because the Borderline Vineyard is planted in richer, valley-floor soils, special attention was paid to clonal selection, drainage, vine spacing, and winter cover crops. By “stressing” the vines, they end up producing grape berries that are almost as small as those produced on the Hillside Estate Vineyard. 2014 featured yet another growing season of moderate temperatures and excellent ripening conditions. Compared with the previous year, 2014 was drier, meaning less moisture in the soil and more stress on the vines. Antonio Galloni said this wine “offers up scents of lavender, cloves, menthol, licorice, spice and graphite. Savory, delineated and tightly wound, the 2014 is a picture perfect example of the vintage. It’s ready to drink but will reward years of aging.”

Details
¥ 15,000
2014 Shafer

2014 Shafer "Relentless" Napa Valley

A California take on the Northern Rhone, Relentless is rich, ripe, and intense, exciting the palate and stimulating the mind with dark berries, bramble fruit, violets, black licorice, pepper, smoked meat, tobacco, dried herbs and more. Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2012, Relentless honors Shafer’s winemaker, Elias Fernandez, for his unrelenting pursuit of quality. Regarding the 2014 vintage, the winery noted that the “consistency of daytime heat and evening coolness created a model growing season in which we harvested fruit with abundant color and concentration, along with enticing, rich aromatics.” The blend of 89% Syrah and 11% Petite Sirah is sourced from two hillside sites just south of Stags Leap AVA. Although the dark-skinned Petite Sirah (a.k.a. Durif), no longer exists in France, its ability to deepen color and add tannic structure makes it an excellent “blend partner” with Syrah. Despite the power, Relentless has excellent balance and soft, fleshy tannins. Its structure and fresh acidity suggest that it would pair well with braised ribs, lamb shanks, duck or beef - especially with syrah-based sauces.

Details
¥ 16,000
2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot (1.5L)

2014 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot (1.5L)

Though Shafer has been producing Merlot for 30 years, Doug Shafer believes they are still learning how to best deal with this tricky grape. Merlot requires a lot of attention in the vineyard, and Shafer’s crews are out throughout the season, thinning excess leaves and culling bad fruit, so that only the best bunches of grapes will make their way to the winery. 2014 saw yet another ideal Napa Valley vintage of warm days, cool nights and few days of extreme temperatures. Though the wine is labeled as Napa Valley, the grapes were sourced from a rocky hillside just south of the Stags Leap District, a vineyard near Yountville and the rest from with the SLD. This year the blend includes 14% Malbec, which deepens the color and adds both juiciness and savory note, and 8% Cabernet for darker fruit and tannic structure.The wine is rich with explosive fruit yet still chewy and somewhat tight, suggesting great potential for evolution in the bottle. It should pair well with meat dishes that have some fruit in the sauce, like duck breast with dried cherry sauce.

Details
¥ 19,800
2013 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 is shaping up to be one of Napa’s great, classic vintages, perhaps the very best out of a great three in a row. Therefore, if you are looking for a wine that defines the vintage and is assured of a graceful evolution into adulthood, middle and old age, Shafer’s Hillside Select is a great choice. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside Select is made from the rocky vineyard the Shafers planted in the early 1970s. Throughout the growing season, the vineyards are meticulously managed – to the point where even individual berries are snipped off their bunches if not up to par. In the winery, Hillside Select is aged for more than four years – three in 100% new French oak barrels plus an additional 15 months in bottle. The result is a wine with classic richness, youthful elegance and texture. Of the 2013, Robert Parker has called it, “massively concentrated but incredibly elegant and poised, this is a wine of great energy and vibrancy. It is fabulously deep, built like a skyscraper, and set for an incredibly long life.” 

Details
¥ 48,000
2013 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (3.0L)

2013 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (3.0L)

2013 is shaping up to be one of Napa’s great, classic vintages, perhaps the very best out of a great three in a row. Therefore, if you are looking for a wine that defines the vintage and is assured of a graceful evolution into adulthood, middle and old age, Shafer’s Hillside Select is a great choice. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside Select is made from the rocky vineyard the Shafers planted in the early 1970s. Throughout the growing season, the vineyards are meticulously managed – to the point where even individual berries are snipped off their bunches if not up to par. In the winery, Hillside Select is aged for more than four years – three in 100% new French oak barrels plus an additional 15 months in bottle. The result is a wine with classic richness, youthful elegance and texture. Of the 2013, Robert Parker has called it, “massively concentrated but incredibly elegant and poised, this is a wine of great energy and vibrancy. It is fabulously deep, built like a skyscraper, and set for an incredibly long life.” 

Details
¥ 200,000