2001 Shafer, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District, Bottle (750ml) RP100
2002 Shafer, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District, Bottle (750ml) RP100/JD100
2003 Shafer, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District RP95
2005 Shafer, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District, Bottle (750ml) RP99
2006 Shafer, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District, Bottle (750ml) [Slightly Nicked Label] JS95

Shafer Vineyards - "in the presence of genius when tasting this wine"

Situated in the picturesque hills of Napa Valley, Shafer Vineyard shines as a gleaming example of immaculate California wine. Established in 1972 by John Shafer, this cult-level estate consistently produces wines of unparalleled quality, earning a reputation as one of the region's premier wineries.

The Vineyards

In the Stags Leap District, Shafer Vineyards benefits from the unique terroir of its location. The highest quality fruit comes from the rocky hillsides surrounding the winery, divided into 14 distinctive vineyard blocks. These hillsides produce scraggly clusters of tiny grapes, a departure from the more common, tightly bunched fruit clusters found on the valley floor. These hillside plantings form the foundation for the iconic Shafer Hillside Select bottling, showcasing the essence of the terroir.

Robert Parker describes the vineyards, “Shafer’s Hillside Estate Vineyard consists of 54 acres all on steep, amphitheater-like, rocky outcroppings and knolls. It receives the full benefit of southeasterly sunlight, and enjoys the afternoon breezes that blow up from the San Francisco Bay channel. An unusual geographic feature, this vineyard is basically a box canyon. The top soil is virtually non-existent as the bed roots that go into the white tofu volcanic soil base rarely extend more than 18 inches before hitting bedrock. This no doubt is a significant reason for the intense flavors achieved by the Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, and why it is able to spend 32 months in 100% new French oak without a woody taste.”

Expanding their focus beyond the Stags Leap estate property, Shafer acquired 70 acres on Duhig Road in the cooler Carneros region in 1988. Named the Red Shoulder Ranch, this property is dedicated to Chardonnay, supplying all the fruit needed for the acclaimed Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. In total, Shafer owns six different vineyard properties in Napa Valley, with a recent acquisition in mid-2022, the 114-acre Wildfoote Vineyards, adding to their prestigious portfolio.

The Wine

At the forefront of Shafer's wine portfolio stands the crown jewel—the Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Crafted from the highest quality fruit sourced from the volcanic hillsides surrounding the winery, this wine has become a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The scraggly clusters of tiny grapes, with their higher stem to grape ratio, contribute to the intensity and complexity that define Hillside Select. With meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to expressing the terroir, this wine has earned its place among the most sought-after and collectible Cabernets in the world.

The Shafer Vineyards History

In the late 19th century, Napa Valley witnessed its inaugural surge as an American wine country. Shafer Vineyards' grounds emerged as a central hub for grape cultivation and winemaking in 1880, as Napa's pioneering vintners left an indelible mark on the global stage.

The daunting Prohibition era from 1919 to 1931 posed a significant challenge to the American wine industry. Despite this adversity, Shafer Vineyards, under the stewardship of resilient immigrants Batista and Maria Scansi from Carlazzo, Italy, continued its legacy of grape-growing. Legends speak of secret wine crafted on the property during those Prohibition years—a testament to the enduring spirit that would define Shafer Vineyards for decades.

Fast forward to 1972, when John Shafer, a visionary from the world of Chicago publishing, acquired the property. In the mid-1970s, he embarked on the journey of transforming the hillside estate by planting Cabernet Sauvignon, laying the groundwork for a globally renowned winery. By 1978, John transitioned to full-scale winemaking, crafting Shafer Vineyards' inaugural Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 1983, John's son, Doug Shafer, joined the winery as a winemaker. The dynamic trio, including Elias Fernandez, who assumed the role of assistant winemaker in 1984, set out on a path that would define the winery's distinctive style—marked by elegance, richness, and balance. Elias Fernandez took the helm as winemaker in 1994, earning accolades for his expertise and dedication. In 2002, he was honored as Food & Wine’s “Winemaker of the Year” and received recognition at the White House as a leader in the Latino community.

Over the years, this formidable team, led by Elias Fernandez, sculpted the iconic Hillside Select and cemented the trademark Shafer style, even after the death of John Shafer in 2019.

The Next Chapter

In February 2022, a new chapter began for Shafer Vineyards with its acquisition by Shinsegae, a prominent South Korean conglomerate with diverse business interests. Facilitated through Starfield Properties, Inc., the sale signifies a significant transition for the Napa winery. Shinsegae, founded in 1955 and renowned for its department stores, including the world-record-breaking Shinsegae Centum City, is poised to guide Shafer Vineyards into an exciting future.

Environmental & Sustainable Awareness

Shafer Vineyards has not only embraced the artistry of winemaking but also a profound commitment to sustainability. The winery's dedication to the land is evident in various initiatives aimed at respecting the environment and minimizing their ecological footprint.

In 2016, Shafer Vineyards donated 5 acres of land adjacent to their Borderline Vineyard and Napa River to the Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County. This parcel, known as the Shafer Sanctuary, serves as a rehabilitation space for injured wildlife contributing to preserving local ecosystems.

The winery's sustainable practices extend to their vineyards, where vine rows grow wild with cover crops like clover, vetch, oats, and bell beans. These cover crops serve multiple purposes, controlling erosion, enriching the soil with nutrients, and creating a habitat for beneficial insects that naturally control vine-damaging pests. Shafer Vineyards has successfully abandoned chemical fertilizers in favor of organic methods.

Recognizing the preciousness of water resources, Shafer Vineyards has implemented innovative technologies to reduce water usage significantly. Cover crops and compost enrich the soil, promoting water retention and making vines more resilient to weather extremes.

Since 2013, Shafer has utilized technology to optimize water use. Sensors placed on vines monitor water use and sap flow, providing crucial data on the plant's actual needs. In 2023, the winery adopted an A.I.-based imaging system called Rover Vision from Tule. This system captures images of grape leaves, allowing the vineyard team to receive key data on water needs, enabling precise irrigation and further reducing water consumption.

In 2004, Shafer Vineyards became the first winery in the U.S. to make the switch to 100 percent solar power. Solar arrays installed in 2008 cover the winery's electricity needs, making Shafer one of the early adopters of solar technology in Napa Valley. This commitment to renewable energy reflects the winery's dedication to a sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

A Benchmark For Quality

Shafer Vineyards stands as a beacon of excellence in Napa Valley, producing wines that exemplify the artistry and dedication of the incredible team behind the crafting. With a commitment to sustainability, a rich legacy of winemaking, and a portfolio that showcases the diversity of Napa Valley terroir, Shafer Vineyards continues to be a benchmark for quality and elegance in the world of fine wines.

Written by: Arabella Maislinger

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