Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 10 Year Vertical Tasting back to 1988

Saturday, August 6, 2022 - 07:30 PM

This Event has been read: 558 times.


"A man dies too young if he leaves any wine in his cellar."    - Wine writer André Simon (1877-1970) who had only two magnums of claret in his cellar when he died.


If your cellar is not completely full you could be cutting your life expectancy dangerously short, so it’s time to stock up!

This landmark winery from the Stags Leap district is one of our favorite and if you look at every wine they produce you could make a case for each wine being among the best in its category each year.  In addition to the multiple (100 Point) scores that the Hillside Select has received with 2001, 2002 and 2003 from the Wine Advocate and their #1 "wine of the Year" title won for their 2010 vintage of Relentless syrah.  All we have to say is that it could not have happened to more deserving wine family.  We were sad to hear the winery sold earlier this year, but we are confident that nothing will change with Elias Fernandez still at the winemaking helm and Doug Shafer still watching the ship the continued success of Shafer Vineyards is certain for the near future.

Kudos to the Shafers for all of their success!!  And although we now only get a tiny allocation of their Hillside Select today upon release, check out the older vintage Hillside select that we have in the store, or you can come to this tasting and taste 10 vintages of this great Napa Valley Cult Cabernet Sauvignon for less than the price of a single bottle of one of the (100 Point) rated wines from Shafer.  

Did I mention that the price of this event is $550 + tax and that includes dinner?  For reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail


Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical Tasting
Saturday, August 6th

1988 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
1995 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
1997 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
1999 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
2000 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
2002 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa
2003 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa

Cheese and Charcuterie Selections
Venison Tartar with Parmesan Crisps
Grilled Poblano stuffed with Mushroom Duxelle Chevre over Black Bean Puree
A5 Japanese Filet Mignon with Cabernet Natural Sauce and Cauliflower Mash
Chocolate Cheese Cake with Graham Cracker Crust and Sour Chukar Cherries

The fee for this tasting which includes dinner is $550 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail



Shafer Winery Profile

Shafer Vineyards was officially founded in 1979, but it really all began in 1972 when John Shafer left a prominent position in the publishing business in Chicago and moved his wife and four children to the Napa Valley.  It was a courageous decision for John, for he knew very little about grape growing and making wine.  He wanted a change for himself and his family, and the romantic lifestyle of the gentleman farmer/grape grower was irresistible.  It was a pure stroke of luck that he found a neglected 50 year-old vineyard in the eastern foothills of the valley at the northern tip of the Stags Leap palisades - this part of the Napa Valley is now officially known as the Stags Leap District.  The same year that John Shafer came to the valley, a Frenchman named Bernard Portet, whose father once was the technical director at Château Lafite, made his first Clos du Val wines in leased cellars. (Clos du Val was the very first winery to break ground in the Stags Leap area).  Just to the south of John's hillside vineyards, another transplanted Chicagoan, Warren Winiarski, had just made his first Cabernet Sauvignon at his new winery called Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

The Shafer family went to work replanting and developing 43 acres of hillside vineyards - John was a pioneer back in those days because he recognized the fact that hillside grapes produced more concentrated wines.  As a result, John Shafer is now in the fortunate position of being the only producer in the Stags Leap appellation to have his red wine vineyards planted exclusively on hillsides.   Four years later in 1976, the world discovered that exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon could be produced from Stags Leap grapes.  At a now-famous blind tasting conducted in Paris in 1976, the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon beat out some of the most renowned and expensive wines of Bordeaux.  Suddenly everyone was interested in Stags Leap area wines, and John Shafer knew that he had made the right decision to buy land in this untested area of the Napa Valley.  In 1978 the family decided to build a winery and follow their grapes from the vine to the bottle.  After a long, drawn-out struggle, John Shafer was finally successful in getting separate viticultural recognition for the Stags Leap viticultural area in 1989, and his Cabernets (beginning in 1986) now bear that designation.  The sharp eye might note the spelling of Stags Leap - it was a compromise with several other wineries in the area that at one time opposed the move.  One was called Stags' Leap Vineyards and the other Stag's Leap Wine Cellars; the most acceptable name to all parties for the appellation was agreed upon as Stags Leap!

The winery now produces a Cabernet, a Reserve Cabernet called "Hillside Select", a Merlot, a Chardonnay, and as of 2000 a Syrah called Relentless.  Shafer is a very small winery by Napa Valley standards - production is only 35,000 cases.  The Shafer family prefers that most of its wine comes from its own 135 acres of vineyards (53 acres in the Stags Leap area planted to the Bordeaux varietals and a small amount of sangiovese, 23 acres of merlot in Carneros, 17 acres of merlot and sangiovese in the Oak Knoll District, and 27 acres of chardonnay in Carneros.  In 1988 Shafer purchased an undeveloped 80-acre tract in Carneros to provide grapes for future Chardonnays (planting was begun in 1990).  The winemaker through the 1994 vintage was John Shafer's son, Doug, who graduated from UC Davis in Enology and then did a two-year stint as assistant winemaker for Lakespring Winery.  Doug has now taken over the reins at the winery; and his very able assistant, Elias Fernandez, is now the winemaker.

In the brief span since the first releases in 1978, Shafer's wines have steadily improved - although the winery's Chardonnays have never quite kept pace with the reds.  Until recently Shafer has been considered a "red wine" winery with much positive acclaim for the Cabernets and Merlots.  All that changed, however, with the release of the 1994 "Red Shoulder Ranch" Chardonnay.  The fruit was sourced entirely from the Shafer's new vineyard in Carneros; it received rave reviews - including being selected by us as one of the "Top Ten Chardonnays of 1996" in The Wine News.

The Cabernets at Shafer are the flagship wines and, in our mind, have been bellwether wines for the past decade.  Although Silverado or Stag's Leap Wine Cellars might produce an occasional reserve wine that might be better, we strongly feel that Shafer is the most reliable and most consistent producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Stags Leap District.  The regular Cabernets have been excellent - one of the most acclaimed in recent memory was the 1990.  It won the Platinum Medal with a (98) score at the American Wine Competition conducted by Wine & Spirits.  The even better 1992 regular Cabernet was a classic study in style and finesse.  The reserve Cabernets (labeled "Hillside Select") are drawn entirely from Shafer's own vineyards and have been outstanding from the very first vintage in 1982.  On the strength of the "Hillside Select" bottling we would rate Shafer as one of California's top ten producers of Cabernet Sauvignon; the regular bottlings also place the winery among the leaders in the medium price range as well.  The 1991 "Hillside Select" was the finest Cabernet produced in the history of Shafer Vineyards and was selected as one of our "Top Three Cabernets for 1995" in The Wine News.  The 1992 "Hillside Select" has drawn even more praise from some quarters; Robert Parker scored it a very impressive (95) in The Wine Advocate.  The 1993 "Hillside Select" was rated a (94) in The Wine Spectator.  This wine has become one of the hardest wines to acquire, that is what happens when Robert Parker rates four vintages in a row near perfect scores; the 1994, 1995, 1996 & 1997 scored (99), (98), (98-100) & (98-100) respectively.  I know we need to update this story but little has changed except more 95+ scores from the critics and that they have changed the name of the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon to 1.5 commemorating the 1.5 decades that father and son have worked together.


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