Set against the backdrop of Stags Leap Palisades lays Shafer Vineyards established by John Shafer in 1973 and is now in the guiding hands of his son, Doug Shafer. We visited their new tasting room that looks down on the vineyards along with the 14 small Hillside Select blocks that surround the winery on the east side. This rugged terrain has produced many 100 point wines!
Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of 2018 Albarino from their Carneros vineyards, refreshing with notes of citrus flavors! We were then escorted into the tasting room with (5) of Shafer’s finest wines to taste and compare and learn about:
2017 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay from Carneros region. I’m not big on white wines but this one really catches your taste buds. This wine see 14 months in a combination of 75% oak and 25% stainless steel which gives the wine it’s creamy mouth feel.
2017 TD-9 whose grapes are sourced within a 2 mile radius of the winery and in honor of the TD-9 tractor John acquired with the property. This blend of 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 62% Merlot and 20% Malbec definitely meets my approval! They aged the blend for 20 months in new French oak. I continually revisited this glass of wine in fact we had to take two bottles home with us!
2016 One Point Five from the Stags Leap District, name in honor of the years of John and Doug’s partnership in the family business (one and half generations). This is one of the only two Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignons that Shafer offers! The grapes are sources from the Hillside Estate vineyards as well as the Borderline vineyard at the southern end of Stags Leap District. The wine is age from 20 to 22 months in new French oak. Dark inky in color with aromas of ripen dark fruits (black cherries, berries and plums) with hints of espresso and toasty vanilla. Well structure with balance tannins, acidity and fruit that roll across the palate ever so smooth! The finish is exceptional but this is a wine meant to age for 5 to 10 years, it will only get better!
2016 Relentless, a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Petite Sirah (named after Elias Fernandez his relentless pursuit for quality). The blend spends 30 months in new French oak barrels with deep ruby colors giving way to just a hue of purple. Powerful flavors of dark fruit with hints of dark chocolate and spicy notes that leads to silky feel across the palate and long finish! This wine is both bold, not in your face and delicate touch that brings you back for more!
2015 Hillside Select, Shafer Vineyards signature wine! This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon has scored higher than any other single source vineyard for the last 20 years! The wine is dark ruby in color with some purple along the edges with aromas of black fruits (cherries, berries and plums) with hints of dark chocolate. The tannins and acidity are medium plus and balance quite well with the fruits. It has a tight feel across the palate that will soften with age and the finish is long, long and long! This truly is a wine that needs time in the bottle as in 5 years it be good, in 10 years it will be oh so much better!
The Shafer vineyards is rich with history, from 1880s to 1973 when John Shafer purchased the property, going from commuter train to driving a TD-9 tractor! Talk about a 180, but it has been nothing but a labor of love for the Shafer’s that can be passed down from generation to generation! We had a chance to meet Doug and he gave me a signed copy of his book, “A Vineyard in Napa”. It’s a great read, Thanks Doug!!
You can also catch his new podcast series “The Taste with Doug Shafer … about people behind the food and wine you love.” We find it very enjoyable and entertaining. – Jim