Wineries to Watch: Shafer Vineyards

Shafer Vineyards

A view of the Hillside Select Vineyard from our trip to Shafer this past Fall.

Doug Shafer was in town a couple weeks ago and I had the pleasure of having an intimate lunch meeting with him. Doug moved to Napa when he was 17 and like most caught the “wine bug.” From there he went to UC Davis and shortly thereafter began making wine with his dad, John. They have become an iconic Napa Valley team and set a bar for others in the Valley when it comes to consistent, quality wine.

Doug, who was the winemaker, mentioned the wine became much better once Elias took over in the mid 1990s. Doug recruited the Elias out of UC Davis in 1984 as the assistant winemaker for his first and only job in the wine business.

The toughest part of producing great wines year after year is vintage variation; great wineries make adjustments since a major component to any winemaking process is weather (which we all know is unpredictable). In off vintages grapes are sold off in bulk; possibly ending up in some $10 Napa Valley Cabernet. In great vintages, prices escalate.

When talking recent vintages with Doug, his comments were:

2008: A fantastic vintage, reminiscent of 2006 with great fruit forward wines. It was very underrated from living in the shadow of 2007, which was equally great but produced a much different style of wine.
2009: Very reminiscent of 2007, producing wines of intensity and structure for some age.
2010: Challenging vintage but has resulted in some good wines, the yields will just be much lower.
2011: This was the most challenging vintage Doug has seen since he started making the wine for Shafer. Lots of grapes were sold off in bulk. The vintage will still produce quality wines, but production will be way down. It’s extremely important to buy from an excellent producer in challenging vintages.

Shafer’s selections include Red Mountain Chardonnay, Merlot, One Point Five Cabernet, Relentless Syrah (our personal favorite), and their flagship…Hillside Select Cabernet. We get a lot of inquires about Hillside Select, the best way to get it? Get on our waiting list now! (It doesn’t help to support Shafer’s other wines as well…)


Posted on February 13, 2012, in Wine. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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