2003 Shafer "Hillside Select" Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5L) (Previously $650)
*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. Stunning and gorgeous now in its youth...
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)
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
Medium ruby. Aromas of black raspberry, currant, cocoa powder, cedar, graphite, violet, licorice and sweet oak. Lush and very sweet but with lively mint and naphtha notes lifting the flavors of black cherry, dark berries and dark chocolate. Finishes with a firm edge of tannins and acids and yet this wine should give early pleasure. I find a wider range of ripeness here than in the supernal 2002. (ST)
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)
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)
Good dark red. The nose conveys an herbaceous element not shown by the 2002 or 2001, offering scents of plum, milk chocolate, tobacco leaf and wild herbs; I might have picked this blind as Merlot. Thick and chunky on the palate but slightly angular. I find this concentrated wine a bit medicinal, even brutal, on the back end. Suggests a wide range of ripeness. Following a disrupted flowering, the estate did a lot of vineyard work to attempt to even out the ripeness. 'But we had too much canopy for too little fruit and had to pick quickly during warm conditions at the end,' noted Doug Shafer.