x
  • Country ranking ?

    284
  • Producer ranking ?

    21
  • Decanting time

    2h
  • When to drink

    2020-2035
  • Food Pairing

    Game

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The Story

The Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon has that warm, classic Californian flair to it – loads of ripe and jammed black fruits, smooth tannins and mellow acidity. The wines are always big and as Doug Shafer points out “Napa wines are big wines, no point hiding it.” Still baring the Stag’s Leap District’s smooth style, with tannins that are always very gentle and fine-grained, the Hillside Select is voluminous, but in a discreet manner, making it a very enjoyable and flirtatious wine when young.

Terroir
The legendary Hillside Estate Vineyard is comprised of 14 vineyard blocks, varying from one to nine acres in size, on the slopes of an amphitheatre-like hillside. The thin, volcanic rocky topsoil stands on top of bedrock that forms a very low amount of nutrients for vines, thus yielding small grapes with intense flavours. Due to a series of knolls and outcroppings, the vineyard blocks enjoy various microclimates, which generate grape material with complex flavours. Every afternoon the breeze from San Francisco Bay cools the vineyards, allowing the fruit to retain acidity. The vines suffer and have not
 

Philosophy in winemaking
The Shafers are the pioneers of sustainable vine farming, with over 20 years experience. The production is operated using 100% solar power, recycled water and no chemicals.

In the early 1980s we followed the advice of our textbooks from the U.C. Davis winemaking programme and picked early, added acid, etc. Over time we learnt that wine needs to taste good. And we threw out our textbooks and learned to taste the fruit and let the fruit tell us when to pick and also what style of wine it wanted to become. Obviously I hope the future will be about wines that are produced with authenticity, wines that remain true to their site of origin. However, the fact is the future remains, as always, in the hands of consumers.” Doug Shafer comments.

History 

The winery was established by John Shafer, a former book publisher from Chigago, in 1972. In 1978 the Shafers became vintners after crushing their first wine, Shafer Cabernet, themselves. It was released in 1981. This wine was ranked, ten years later during an international blind tasting in Germany, better than legendary Bordeaux wines like Latour, Margaux and Palmer.

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

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Written Notes

The 1991 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select represents the beginning of a new era where sterile filtration was halted, after which the quality of most vintages soared to new heights. They may also have been picking riper fruit, as Napa Valley was in the midst of enjoying some fabulous vintages in what would turn out to be a Golden Era for its wineries. The 1991 is the finest Hillside Select of the early 1990s, although the 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998 are close in quality. A stunning nose of licorice, vanillin, unsmoked cigar tobacco, crème de cassis and cedarwood are present in this multilayered, full-bodied, opulent, super-concentrated wine. It still possesses an opaque ruby/purple color to the rim. At age 23, this beauty is just hitting its plateau of full maturity.

Shafer’s Hillside Estate Vineyard consists of 54 acres all on steep, amphitheater-like, rocky outcroppings and knolls. It receives the full benefit of southeasterly sunlight, and enjoys the afternoon breezes that blow up from the San Francisco Bay channel. An unusual geographic feature, this vineyard is basically a box canyon. The top soil is virtually non-existent as the bed roots that go into the white tofu volcanic soil base rarely extend more than 18 inches before hitting bedrock. This no doubt is a significant reason for the intense flavors achieved by the Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, and why it is able to spend 32 months in 100% new French oak without a woody taste.

  • 96p

Dark, full red. Sexy aromas of plum, mocha, coffee, licorice, leather and mint. Wonderfully silky wine with more texture than most 1991s. The flavors of redcurrant, tobacco and cedar are given energy and definition by strong savory minerality. No easy sweetness here but there's nothing hard or tart about this firm-edged Cabernet, which has the acid/tannin support for further development. An excellent showing. (13.5% alcohol on the label, but 14.9% on the accompanying tech sheet)

  • 91p
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Information

Origin

Napa, Napa Valley

Highlights

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