The 1991 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select represents the beginning of a new era where sterile filtration was halted, after which the quality of most vintages soared to new heights. They may also have been picking riper fruit, as Napa Valley was in the midst of enjoying some fabulous vintages in what would turn out to be a Golden Era for its wineries. The 1991 is the finest Hillside Select of the early 1990s, although the 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998 are close in quality. A stunning nose of licorice, vanillin, unsmoked cigar tobacco, crème de cassis and cedarwood are present in this multilayered, full-bodied, opulent, super-concentrated wine. It still possesses an opaque ruby/purple color to the rim. At age 23, this beauty is just hitting its plateau of full maturity.
"One of the world's greatest wineries."
- Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate
Shafer Vineyards traces its beginnings to 1972 when John Shafer left a 23-year career in the publishing industry and, with his family, moved to the Napa Valley to pursue a second career in wine. After purchasing a 210-acre estate in Napa Valley's Stags Leap District, the Shafer family faced the arduous task of replanting the existing vineyards, which dated to the 1920s, and terracing the steep and rocky hillsides, eventually expanding vineyard acreage to its current 50 acres.
Evolving from grape growers to vintners, the Shafers crushed their first Cabernet grapes in 1978 and began construction on their winery a year later. The first Shafer Cabernet became a benchmark, winning the acclaimed San Francisco Vintners Club taste-off upon release and, over a decade later taking first place in an international blind tasting held in Germany, where it outranked such wines as Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Palmer.
Doug Shafer became winemaker in 1983 after graduating from the University of California at Davis with a degree in enology and viticulture. A year later Elias Fernandez joined the winery as assistant winemaker. Together Doug and Elias have worked closely to forge the Shafer style of quality, consistency and elegance. From a modest beginning of 1,000 cases in 1978, the winery has grown steadily until reaching its present size of 32,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
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