(98-100 Points) The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is not in bottle, but it looks like another three-digit wine in the making. It tips the scales at a lofty 15.3% natural alcohol, but tasters will never feel any “heat” tasting it. This is a beauty, with crème de cassis notes mixed with spring flowers a touch of toasty oak, blackberries, blueberries and cassis, as well as licorice, vanillin and a full-bodied mouthfeel. At this stage, it is more voluptuous and opulent than the 2010 was, simply because that’s the hallmark style of the 2012. No doubt this is a 30- to 50-year wine if you want to cellar it properly and nibble on it over a long period of time, but it will be much more approachable in its youth than most Hillside Selects tend to be. This is, once again, a fabulous effort.
Year in year out, this is one of the superstar wineries, not only in Napa Valley and all of California, but in the entire world. It’s the product of visionary John Shafer, who started in 1978 after a successful corporate career. He had the foresight and visionary genius to believe in the microclimates and soils of Stags Leap of the southern Napa Valley. When his son Doug came on board with their brilliant winemaker and Mr. Everything, Elias Fernandez, things soared in quality and diversity. Today, this is a winery that does everything about as perfect as can be. They have kept their feet, heads and egos grounded, and continue to kick proverbial ass with every vintage. They made some of the very finest, possibly the Cabernet Sauvignon of the vintage in 2011, and in 2012 and 2013, they have crafted one profound wine after another. For starters, their Chardonnay has always been a non-malolactic Chardonnay, of which 75% is barrel-fermented and the other quarter in stainless steel. As good as it is, it’s hard to believe they produce a whopping 6,400 cases of it. John and Doug Shafer, along with Elias Fernandez, have certainly excelled at turning out gorgeous Merlots that are concentrated and fleshy as well as elegant. A big success for Shafer has been their Stags Leap One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon. They make between 6,000-7,000 cases of this wine in any vintage. About one-third of their famous Hillside Vineyard, which represents 100% of their flagship wine Hillside Select, goes into this cuvée. I did an entire vertical of the Shafer Hillside, from 1978-2013, but I’ll include the older notes on the erobertparker.com website. What follows are notes on the last four vintages of the Hillside Select, their 2,400-case cuvée of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 32 months in 100% new French oak. Lastly, another sensational wine from the Shafer portfolio is the Relentless. This has been a terrific Rhône Ranger offering since it was first released in 1999, and it continues to be primarily a 89%-97% Syrah blend and the rest Petite Sirah. Like the Hillside Select, it’s aged 32 months in new oak prior to being bottled. I have no idea how long these wines will last, but they’re fabulous to drink young, and certainly 20-25 years is well within reach of just about every top vintage of Relentless. eRobertParker.com #215, Oct 2014