One of the world’s greatest wines year in and year out is Shafer’s Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. The 2002 was a candidate for perfection the first time I tasted it. The estate keeps this cuvee 32 months in 100% new French oak, so I had a number of chances to see it from barrel. Moreover, I purchased the wine for my own cellar and have had it at least a half dozen times since bottling, and it just gets more profound with each sip. This wine is beyond belief for how it balances its extraordinary richness, purity of personality, and the elegance and finesse of the Stags Leap District with massive cassis fruit, spring flowers, toasty oak and earth. The wine is fabulously concentrated, multidimensional and built like a skyscraper, yet nothing is out of place. The wood, alcohol, acidity and tannin are all in perfect balance. This offering is a tribute to the greatness of Napa Valley, which was recognized by men and women hundreds of years ago, and to the modern day genius of the Shafer family. This 2002 has 50 years of life ahead of it - but why wait! I am hardly alone in having enormous respect for the Shafer family, whose father, John, started this venerable Stags Leap winery in 1978. John still has an amazingly vigorous constitution as he moves into his eighth decade of life, although his son, Doug, is now carrying the Shafer banner. Since the beginning, they have enjoyed the services of one of the world’s great winemakers, Elias Fernandez. These are the highest scores I have ever given their regular cuvees of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which again demonstrates what extraordinary winemaking and attention to detail takes place at Shafer. Everything can be recommended, from their Red Shoulder Chardonnay to their bevy of wine made from Bordeaux varietals as well as their famed Relentless, a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah. This winery has clearly been on the top of its game for two decades and only continues to improve. How admirable is that?