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

2013 Shafer

2013 Shafer "One Point Five" Cabernet Sauvignon (375ml)

The name One Point Five commemorates the history of the Shafer Winery. Because father and son learned on-the-job, together, 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. One Point Five is an elegant and silky wine, demonstrably capable of aging but perhaps a bit more approachable when young in comparison with the Hillside Select. 2013 was a stellar vintage in the Napa Valley. This is a rich yet elegant wine that offers a mind-boggling array of aromas and flavors. It’s ready to drink but will reward years of aging.

Details
¥ 7,000
2014 Shafer

2014 Shafer "Red Shoulder Ranch" Chardonnay

Shafer used to grow Chardonnay on hillsides in the Stags Leap District but eventually conceded that Carneros, the coolest district in the Napa Valley, was a better spot for the early-ripening variety. In foggy, wind-whipped Carneros, Chardonnay fruit can become fully ripe while retaining the acidity needed to keep the wine crisp and fresh. 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. 2014 was the third consecutive fine vintage in which warm, sunny days and cool nights led the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly. Robert Parker has called Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, “one of the best non-malolactic, barrel-fermented Chardonnays in California.” Full-bodied and rich yet bright and focused, the wine has beautiful 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
2013 Shafer

2013 Shafer "One Point Five" Cabernet Sauvignon

The name One Point Five commemorates the history of the Shafer Winery. Because father and son learned on-the-job, together, 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. One Point Five is an elegant and silky wine, demonstrably capable of aging but perhaps a bit more approachable when young in comparison with the Hillside Select. 2013 was a stellar vintage in the Napa Valley. This is a rich yet elegant wine that offers a mind-boggling array of aromas and flavors. It’s ready to drink but will reward years of aging. 

Details
¥ 13,600
2013 Shafer

2013 Shafer "Relentless" Napa Valley

Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for 2012, Relentless honors Shafer’s winemaker, Elias Fernandez, for his unrelenting pursuit of quality. Regarding the 2013 vintage, the winery notes, “This was an ideal vintage that served up nothing but warm, sun-soaked days and perfect, chilly nights from spring through early autumn. The consistency of heat and coolness created a superb growing season in which we harvested fruit at delicious ripeness bursting with rich color and flavor.” The blend of 97% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah is sourced from a vineyard planted on a rugged hillside just outside 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. Relentless is a classic California interpretation of a Northern Rhone wine: rich, ripe, intense and flamboyant, the wine gushes with aroma, flavor and power that excite the palate and stimulate the mind. 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
¥ 15,400
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