2003 Shafer "Hillside Select" Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon (Previously $400)
*Best of 2008, Cellar Selection* Solidly in the Hillside Select model, this vigorous young Cab is dramatically ripe and powerful. The flavors of red and black currants, milk chocolate, figs and smoky vanilla erupt in the mouth, making the tastebuds jump with joy. However, there is also the structure, among the greatest in California Cabs. The acidity is fine, but the tannins are stupendously rich, sweet and complex, practically a food group in themselves.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The 2003 is a singular style of wine, but by no means wimpy or undernourished. The 2003 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select has a dense, purple color, notes of creosote, graphite, blackberry and cassis fruit, charcoal and scorched earth. It has a full-bodied mouthfeel and excellent purity, while some rather noticeable tannins kick in on the finish. This wine seems to be moving from adolescence to that early mature stage, where I would expect it to hold for at least another 10-15 or more years. Clearly not one of the superstars in what was a rather astonishing qualitative lineup, but it’s outrageously good Cabernet Sauvignon, and I expect myself, as well as any of my readers, would drink this 24/7. (RP)
Wine & Spirits
Elias Fernandez produces a powerful, 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from the hillside blocks John Shafer planted in the 1970s. The 2003 vintage is about as potent as they come, its austere, mineral structure managing to hold all the richness of tannin and crushed berry fruit. Layers of flavor begin to take shape with air, from chocolate cake to blackberries and a hint of strawberry-a complex impression that lasts. Hillside Select will reward cellaring for ten years or more.
Big and expressive, with intense notes of dark berry fruit, cedar, crushed rock and loamy earth, gaining depth, velocity and texture. Impressive on the finish, where the flavors taper and weave into the tannins. Best to drink this soon.--2003 California Cabernet blind retrospective (July 2013). Drink now through 2024. (JL, Web-2013)
*Two Stars* Our highest rated Cabernet Sauvignon of the last ten years, Shafer Hillside Select outpoints the 2003 vintage with a wine that has all the depth, size and focus we have learned to expect. Its outgoing black-cherry fruit scents gain complexity from notes of boysenberry, loam, cola and caramel, and there is not much hidden or brooding about it. Full and fleshy at entry, then plush, viscous yet balanced and full of energy across the palate, the wine has proven that it can age despite its size and forward flavors. It has the tannins to last for ten years or more but will invite drinking in half that time.
The style -- powerful, ultra-rich and hedonistic -- is not for everyone, yet it agrees with many American palates. It’s a fine example of how a big, ripe wine can remain surprisingly balanced for all its opulence. Aromas of forest floor, cedar, cassis and black cherry lead to a palate awash in ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit. Tannins are velvet-soft, yet background toast and brisk acidity keep the wine remarkably fresh. At 14.9 per cent alcohol, there is very little heat. 18/20 points (LM)