1998 Shafer "Hillside Select" Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5L)
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The 1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select was produced during a challenging vintage in Napa Valley with an incredible heat wave in mid-July, with temperatures at the Hillside Select property hitting an astonishing 114 degrees. This was brutal for the grapes, but a strict selection, and as Doug and John Shafer said, 'We make no excuses at this winery.' Certainly, this was one of the great successes in this vintage. Very tiny yields from small, rather shriveled berries produced a super-extracted, rich, intense wine that has some smokey barbecue notes along with blackcurrants, cedar wood, wet rocks and background oak and burning embers. There's almost a Graves-like, scorched earth character to this vintage. This medium to full-bodied wine is intense and undeniably one of the top ten wines in Napa Valley. Moreover, it should continue to drink well for another 10-15 years. (RP)
*Cellar Selection* An absolute joy, and a very great success for this vintage, which produced so many disappointing Cabernets. Unusually dark. Begins closed, but swirling brings out cassis and loads of smoky oak. Dense and lush, it’s incredibly long on flavor, with fabulous intensity. The reputation of this collector’s wine is undiminished. (SH)
While never wanting for intensity or sheer volume, this very big-bodied, massively extracted wine is now showing its ripeness and lacks the polish displayed by the very best of its kin. It is loaded with chocolate and crème caramel oakiness, but it is a bit coarse at the edges and lets palpable heat come through at the end. It is still a very good wine and one that will develop for ten years or more, but it will find favor most with collectors who like their Cabernets big and dramatic.
Rich and enticingly earthy, with layers of dried currant, blackberry, anise, mineral and mocha flavors that are pure and focused, complex and long. Ends with chewy tannins. The best of two bottles tasted.--1998 California Cabernet retrospective. (Web-2009, JL)
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
Medium ruby. Black cherry and red licorice on the nose; largely avoids the herbal aspect shown by this winery other 1998 reds. Very intense flavors of black cherry, licorice and mint, but still tightly wound, even a bit clenched, and unevolved for a '98. Very long, firm finish hints at mint and exotic Indian spices. The main vineyard component for this super-cuvee produced 3.3 tons per hectare in 1997 but less than 1 in 1998. (ST)