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2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select

2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select

100 RP


Wine Details for 2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select

Type of Wine California Red : Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel, Californian red wine producers have a lovely habit of taking a varietal and expressing its essence in a unique, never before seen way. From Napa Valley to the regions south of Los Angeles, there's a red for everyone - and it's never too late to start exploring.
Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon : It is recognized worldwide, referred to as “king of grapes” and has easily become the most popular grape variety in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon has seemingly taken the world by storm. It has seen exponential growth and popularity in American and around the world over the past thirty years. The phrase “Cabernet is king,” is a common maxim in the world of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon wine has become so popular that when being referred to can be recognized by simple slang, such as “Cab” or “Cabernet. It might appear simple, straightforward and easily understood; yet, interestingly remains an enigma, which has both baffled and excited oenologists since its discovery.

The exact origin and circumstances of this world-altering event are still enigmatic; however, at the end of the 20th century, UC Davis Scientists (John Bowers and Carole Meredith) were able to solve part of the mystery using DNA fingerprinting technology that proved Cabernet Sauvignon to be the offspring of a surprising spontaneous crossing of Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. By the 18th century there were already records of Cabernet Sauvignon being well-established on the west side of the Gironde Estuary (Left Bank) in the Medoc and Graves.

Although tremendously popular in California and what seems to have become the identity of Napa Valley winemaking, Cabernet Sauvignon’s birth took place in the Bordeaux region of southwest France by fortuitous unification. Whereas Napa Valley experienced a winemaking renaissance during the 1970’s and 1980s (greatly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris) quality wine from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been produced in the Medoc, on the Left Bank of Bordeaux for over 400 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s first recorded plantings in California can be traced back to the 1850’s when Antoine Delmas, a French nurseryman, brought French vines (including one called ‘Cabrunet’) to the Santa Clara Valley. Early cultivation suffered due to obscurity of the varietal and improper planting in inhospitable soil. It wasn’t until pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, Randy Dunn and Warren Winiarski with their amazing foresight and understanding of terroir, would the grape variety finally find its niche in California winemaking.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in warm climates moderated by a cooling marine influence. It is perfectly attuned to gravel-based soils with good drainage. Whether on flat land or a hillside, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape flourishes in proper climates and terroir, producing incredible yields. The thick grapevine is extremely vigorous allowing it to exploit its natural host. Its distinctive small, black berries (reminiscent of blueberries) adhere firmly to the stalk and are capable of a very long “hang time.” These berries are extremely concentrated, producing intensely flavored fruit. The thick skins of the grape are characterized as having highly astringent flavor, high tannin, acidity and dark color. Coincidentally, the variety has a special affinity for oak, which helps soften the bitterness.

Today, the Noble Bordeaux varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on 340,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of vineyards across the earth’s surface. From Sicily to Sonoma, Chile to Bordeaux, South Africa to Napa. It has found symbiosis in terroir hotspots that mimic that of the Medoc and Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon’s globetrotting has allowed the grape variety to take root all over the world, captivating its inhabitants and influencing winemaking. This serendipitous marriage between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc centuries ago, which offered to the world its progeny, has changed the landscape of winegrowing, winemaking and the face of the entire wine market forever. It has influenced blending, changed civilization and has cultivated a place for itself in today’s world… the very pinnacle.

Country US : As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Region California : With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
Subregion Napa Valley
Appellation Stags Leap District
Climat/Vineyard Hillside Select


Producer Shafer : When John Shafer made the decision to move his family from Chicago to the lush Napa Valley of California, a viticultural endeavor transformed into a fruitful winemaking career. He had been a successful business man in Chicago, flew B-24 Bombers in World War II and put his engineering degree from Cornell University to good use but this daring move became a life-defining decision.

In 1972, Shafer purchased a 209 acre property in Stags Leap which was perfectly suited to the varietals of Bordeaux, or what he identified as prime growing conditions through his extensive research on France’s most popular wine-growing terroir. Here, well above the fog line, it was deemed too cold to grow Cabernet Sauvignon successfully but Shafer was undeterred and began to sample his neighbor’s grapes for verification.

Satisfied with his findings, he began planting his steep hillside vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon and in 1978 made the first Shafer Vineyards wine. The wine debuted in 1981 to high praise from critics and consumers alike, setting a benchmark for future Shafer hillside Cabernets and in effect was the forerunner of the highly coveted Hillside Select.

In 1983, John Shafer’s son Doug, joined the team as winemaker. The following year, Elias Fernandez was hired as assistant winemaker, allowing John to spearhead the administrative and marketing aspects of the enterprise. This also enabled him the time to organize his neighboring vintners and grape growers to petition the government to designate their region as an official AVA (American Viticultural Area). Four years later, in 1985, approval was granted making Stags Leap District Napa Valley’s third AVA and today is considered one of the world’s best appellations for cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon. Shafer’s efforts were instrumental in this historic development.

Over the next several decades, Shafer Vineyards would see great success and the addition of many wines to its portfolio. Shafer’s first Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay debuted in 1995 and was named one of the Top Ten Wines of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine. Relentless, which is a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah was released in 2002. One Point Five saw its first appearance in 2007, which replaced their original label of Cabernet Sauvignon. TD-9 is a label of great significance as it symbolizes the bold undertaking Shafer made from riding commuter trains in downtown Chicago to learning to operate an old TD-9 tractor in the steep hills of Napa. It is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.

Shafer Hillside Select, however remains the pride and joy and is a tribute to the first block of its prized hillside Cabernet Sauvignon and its long continuing success. Cumulatively 32,000 cases of wine are produced annually at Shafer Vineyards, but the Hillside Select is as elusive as it is coveted. Great vintages are difficult to acquire and should be met with great appreciation should the opportunity arise.

Critic Reviews

The 2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is the first of these back-to-back perfect wines from Shafer that, at age 13, is still a baby, but, wow, what an amazing wine. A fabulous growing season produced a wine with inky/purple black color, stunning crème de cassis notes, with additional hints of lead pencil shavings, spring flowers, cedar wood and forest floor. It is full-bodied, sensationally concentrated, with a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, wood and alcohol. This is a great, monumental Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that is still an infant, at age 13, going on 14. This has got at least three decades of life left in it, and probably won’t hit its peak for another 5-7 years.

Robert Parker | 100 RP
No Cabernet smells better. This is an enormously attractive, well-oaked wine constituted from the best possible fruit. In the mouth, it immediately seduces. Shafer knows it has to rise to expectations with this wine, and the 2001 does not disappoint. The fruit is spectacular, all cassis. The oak is rich, flamboyant and delicious. Structurally, the wine has the best tannin-acid structure Napa is capable of. Immediately delicious now, this wine should develop over the next 10 years.

Wine Enthusiast | 98 WE
Amazing for its richness, depth and concentration, with a wealth of flavors extending to espresso bean, mocha, dark berry, raspberry and cedar, intense and persistent on the long, detailed finish. An immense wine that’s gracefully balanced.—2001 California Cabernet blind retrospective (June 2011). Drink now through 2020. 2,500 cases made.

Wine Spectator | 96 WS
Impressive bright ruby-red to the rim. Sexy, complex nose melds scents of plum, currant, dried herbs, game, coffee bean, Baker’s chocolate and tobacco; smells sweet! Plush, sweet and broad from entry through to powerful, building finish. Strong plum, currant, tar, graphite, chocolate and spice flavors are complicated by soil and mineral nuances. Quite generous and thick without going over the top. This has reached its peak but should hold for at least another 10 to 15 years owing to its firm, claret-like spine of fully ripe, broad tannins. Actually less sweet on the palate than the nose suggests--and an answer to those tasters who consider Shafer’s flagship wine to be a bit too sweet and exotic. This is downright classic.

Vinous Media | 95 VM
From vines the Shafers planted in the early 1970s, these volcanic knolls at the foot of Stags Leap offer the family’s best wine, distinctive both for its texture and the grace with which it ages. It’s hard to find a better example of SLD tannins, a combination of dusty earth and chocolate richness so refined that it’s hard to tell where the fruit tannins end and the oak begins. The wine is neither overtly fruity nor in any way super-ripe. The power seems to come right out of the ground. This is a great vintage of Hillside Select that will need years to reach its peak, perhaps from 2010 through ’15 or later.

Wine & Spirits | 94 W&S

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