Wine Tasting Notes, 2009: Shafer Vineyards, Napa Valley

shaferredshoulderranchA recent trip to Shafer Vineyards reconfirmed what I have long argued: that Shafer is probably the best winery in the Napa Valley. Normally, I wouldn’t spend the time posting about this producer, since their wines are pretty well-known and well-regarded already. In terms of my tasting notes, the purpose of the Thirsty Reader is to highlight the wineries that are good, but which are still a bit under the radar. With this site, I don’t have the time nor the resources to be completely comprehensive, nor do I want to be. After all, even for the folks who live and work here in the Napa Valley, it literally takes years to visit all of the tasting rooms.

Even though this entry may be a bit obvious and redundant, however, I do feel that it is worthwhile to join the chorus of support for this winery. I’m not sure that any wine pundit has panned a Shafer wine in recent years, although I rarely read any wine criticism anymore (I live in Napa and I drink California wines almost exclusively, so I almost always have the luxury of tasting before I buy). But for any wine critic who might take an issue with one of Shafer’s wines, I probably wouldn’t grant that person’s opinion very much weight; quite frankly, it would be like someone who grew up in the 1960s and didn’t like the Beatles. More than anything, this post serves to assure my readers that I’m not that guy.

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This week, I tasted Shafer’s five current releases, beginning with the 2006 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, which had already slayed the competition in a Chardonnay blind tasting that I attended in May 2008, just a couple months after that wine’s release. After revisiting the Shafer Chardonnay this week, I was instantly reminded why I had loved it so much last May: It’s probably the best Chardonnay produced in the Napa Valley. The Shafer RSR is absurdly good, which is something I will rarely ever say about any Chardonnay. For more notes on this wine, and the overall results of the May 2008 Chardonnay blind tasting, please click here.

Among the Bordeaux varietals, there were three wines in the flight: the 2006 Shafer Merlot, the 2005 Shafer One Point Five, and the 2004 Shafer Hillside Select. To be honest, the Shafer Merlot was a little lighter than in years past, and I think that for Bordeaux varietals, the 2006 vintage was a little less dynamic than the 2005 vintage. I have already begun to notice this trend in other Napa wines. That being said, the One Point Five was a terrific wine, and the Hillside Select was one of the best wines that I have ever tasted. Both Cabernets are full-flavored, densely layered, and velvety smooth, while the Hillside Select, in particular, lingers forever on the palate.

Rounding out the flight, I also tasted the 2005 Shafer Relentless, which is a Syrah-Petite Sirah blend. This wine is yet another endorsement for the potential of lower Napa Valley Syrah. But, like every other Shafer varietal, the Relentless may also be the best example in the entire Napa Valley appellation. It is smooth, dark, and wonderfully refined.

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