A slightly more compact version of the great Hillside, but nevertheless youthful, the 2006 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select has a dense purple color, some notes of damp earth, cedar wood, forest floor, red and black currants, and toast. Some austere tannins kick in in the finish, but the wine is full-bodied, ripe and rich. An outstanding effort, but not one of the monumental vintages for Hillside Select, it should be drunk over the next 20 years.
Good dark red. Stubbornly reticent, unevolved nose hints at dark fruits, coffee, tar and sea salt. Extremely backward on the palate, conveying a distinctly medicinal character to its flavors of dark cherry, tar and dried herbs. Savory more than sweet and evolving very slowly. Finishes with substantial tannins and a repeating saline character. When I noted that this wine seemed to be in a state of suspended animation, Elias Fernandez told me that "it`s still asleep--and it was always like that." He seemed to be in some doubt that the wine would ever really blossom and open up in bottle.
"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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