Shafer’s flagship wine, and one of the world’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignons, is the Hillside Select, which comes from the rocky, volcanic soils on hillsides above the winery. Vineyard production is small, and the wine an incredible example of Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in 100% new oak for 32 months and bottled unfiltered, this can generally be expected to be one of the top dozen or so Cabernet Sauvignons in virtually any vintage in Napa, and certainly possesses 25 to possibly 50 years of aging potential. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is a perfect wine. It elicits more than a few “wows” when you smell the incredible notes of charcoal, graphite and subtle toast, buttressed and dominated by blackcurrant, blackberry and blueberry fruit. The purity of these fruits, the multidimensional mouthfeel, the seamless integration of acid, alcohol, tannin and wood are all flawless. The 2012 signature adds an extravagant opulence and density that is just mind-boggling, and the wine is a total hedonistic and intellectual turn-on already, although it has 30+ years of life ahead of it.
There are very few wineries in California where you can say that the original wine owners and winemaking staff are totally intact and have been, in this case, since 1978. The estate was founded by John Shafer and run with great precision by himself and more recently by his son Doug and Elias Fernandez. The team has been working together for 38 years since the first vintage in 1978. Six years earlier in 1972, John Shafer bought the property and established the vineyard in the hillsides of Stags Leap. They produce about 30,000 cases of wine – all of it noteworthy. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is true first-growth quality and their Rhône Ranger wine made from Syrah and Petite Sirah, called Relentless, is about as profound as you can get from those varietals.