Shafer Hillside Select Vertical

Zealous - Chicago, IL

Tasted January 11, 2007 by Nanda with 782 views

Introduction

Fellow Chicago wine enthusiasts got together for grand dinner featuring Shafer's Hillside Select from 13 vintages. A wonderful night of wine and conversation.

Hillside Select is the among Napa's (if not the world's) wine elite. Tonight's wines spanned four decades --- and for the most part were consistently exceptional. A testament to (a) California and what is possible there and (b) the dedication and focus of a family-run operation. Kudos...

Flight 1 - BUBBLY (1 note)

White - Sparkling
1999 Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Fiacre France, Champagne
89 points
Pears, minerals with a hint of citrus on the palate. Crisp, tightly wound and youthful. Enjoyable but not nearly ready. Give this time to unwind and reveal more. 5+12+15+7=89

Flight 2 - THE LONE WHITE (1 note)

With seared chilean sea bass in a killer black bean lobster sauce ... perfect pairing.

White
2000 Kongsgaard Chardonnay USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Gold color with a lavish, fragrant perfume of pineapple, honeyed pears and soft vanilla notes. Palate echoes the nose and has a plump, buttery mouthfeel. Harmoniously balanced. Broad, deep and long finish. At peak drinking --- outstanding. 4+14+17+8=93

Flight 3 - OLDER HSS (4 notes)

With seared duck breast.

The '78 was served as a blind mystery wine and was a gift from Doug Shafer's personal cellar. Quite a treat! Thanks Doug -- a kind and thoughtful gesture!!! It was the first vintage for Shafer. Showed beautifully and received high praise from the group including a number of WOTN nods.

Red
1985 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
92 points
Bronze ruby with a potent, complex nose of cedar, red currants, tobacco and ashtray. Palate has currants, sweet herbs and cedar. Soft and mature; remaining tannins are silky. 4+14+17+7=92
Red
1987 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
81 points
Bronze ruby. Nose has cedar, currants but gets consumed by an overriding green pepper tone. Medium bodied. Vegetal notes continue / worsen on the palate. One of two wines in the vertical that I couldn't drink (corked '96 was the other). Over-the-hill. 4+10+12+5=81
Red
1978 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Dark ruby hue. Seductive and inviting aromas of earth, smoke, leather and red currants. Velvety smooth palate has pure fruit and totally resolved tannins. Long and integrated with cigar and tobacco leaf filling the finish. Sexy. Served blind --- guesses ranged from 89 Haut Brion to Harlan. I was pegging this as late 80s cal cab in an old world style. Quite impressive for a 29 year old. 4+14+17+9=94
Red
1992 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
93 points
Bright ruby. Tight on the nose barely revealing sweet currants and green herbs. Full bodied and rich in the mouth. Red and black currants are the driving force as the palate shows very straight forward and primary. Firm tannins provide grip. Most lush of the flight --- squeaky clean and polished relative to the more complex 78 and 85. Outstanding but suffered in placement. 5+13+17+8=93

Flight 4 - MID 90s HSS (4 notes)

With filet, mushroom-potato lasagna and braised short rib. My overall favorite flight --- these wines are hitting on all cylinders. The '94 was my #2 WOTN.

Red
1994 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
98 points
Deep dark ruby. Nose of dark currants, cedar and pine. Huge on the palate. Concentrated, penetrating currant fruit and green herbs over grippy, gritty tannins. Gorgeous combination of muscular fruit and coarse tannin. The structure provides an incredible mouthfeel. Finish goes on and on. 5+14+19+10=98
Red
1995 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
95 points
Deep dark ruby. Giving nose of dark currants, earth and toasty notes. Pure, laser-focused cassis fruits provide a linear personality. Extremely well-knit and polished. Whereas the 94 is all about structure, the 95 is about pure fruits and seamlessness. 5+13+18+9=95
Red
1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Anniversary SunSpot Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
97 points
Deep dark ruby with a bright, concentrated nose of dark currants, herbs and cedar. In the mouth ... WOW! Currants and dark chocolate blow up in the mouth. Substantial fine tannins integrate with bright fruits. Seamless through an impressively long finish. 5+14+19+9=97
Red
1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
flawed
Corked.

Flight 5 - YOUNG HSS (3 notes)

I can't say enough about the 2001. I'm hopeful the 2002 will get there. And I tried hard to get into the '97 but it wasn't in the class of the last flight or the 2001.

Red
1997 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
94 points
Deep dark ruby to purple. Layered nose of currants, cedar and floral notes. Ripe, deep and lush fruits marry with big tannins. Chunky and delicious --- but lacked the oomph I found in the 94, 95 and 96 SunSpot. 5+13+18+8=94
Red
2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
100 points
Deep dark ruby to purple. Sexy and oppulent nose is insanely aromatic. Chocalate, sweet rich blackberry, brown sugar, mint and vanilla toast aromas soar from the glass. Massive, rich and syrupy fruit coat the mouth and stain the teeth. Despite the extraction and weight the palate has impeccable poise and balance. Persistent through a long, long finish. Perfect? My WOTN, group's WOTN. 5+15+20+10=100
Red
2002 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
92 points
Deep dark ruby to purple in color. Layered and dense nose has chocolate and blue fruit. Luscious, fat and ripe fruits. Delicious. But so disjointed. I had a damn hard time with this wine. Difficult to figure out --- like a barrel-sample. Shades of the '01 but just not together. 5+13+16+8=92

Flight 6 - OTHER HSS (3 notes)

An interesting flight. Shows that vineyard and winemaking can trump tough vintages. I thought the '98 was gorgeous and interesting. A fun dinner companion at any table.

Red
1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
93 points
Deep ruby with an intriuging nose of black currants, sweet herbs, cedar and tar. Big and concentrated palate. Green herbs infuse the fruits. Well-balanced and in a great place at this age. Showing some of the complexity of the '85 with weight / body of the mid-90's bottles. Clearly not a long termer, but outstanding today. 5+14+17+7=93
Red
1999 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
90 points
Deep dark ruby with aromas of dark fruits, currants and spice. Medium weight on the palate. Focused fruit. Well made, polished with good length. But lacking complexity and interest, relatively speaking. 5+12+16+7=90
Red
2000 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
92 points
Deep ruby color with a unique cigar, ashtray and black currant nose. Great concentration and weight. Green herbs add further complexity. 5+13+17+7=92

Flight 7 - DESSERT (1 note)

White - Sweet/Dessert
1989 Ch√Ęteau Rieussec France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
90 points
Orange peel, honey, boytris. Beautiful mouthfeel. Delicious.

Closing

Thanks to all for a great night. Once again, an embarassment of riches!