2016 Shafer "TD-9" Napa Valley

Winery

In the Stags Leap District, Cabernet Sauvignon is king. The well-drained volcanic soils and climate cooled by regular San Pablo Bay fogs produce cabs that are silky, supple and voluptuous: “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” While the Stags Leap District is now world class, when John Shafer moved his family there from Chicago in 1973, it was a place of rocky hillsides and rundown vineyards and orchards. At that time, “up-valley” was the focus of premium winemaking whereas this rocky corner of the valley did not even have an agreed-upon name. But as the land was affordable and had supported vineyards in the past, John Shafer decided it was the place to pursue his dream in wine. Shafer Vineyards is a moderately-sized, family-owned operation whose pursuit of quality in both viticulture and winemaking helped define not only their own winery but the Stags Leap District as well. At the start it was just John and his son Doug doing everything, from terracing the hillsides, to planting vines, to making and selling the wine. Doug was only 17 when he began helping his father transform the old farm into a modern vineyard. He went on to study enology at UC Davis and became Shafer’s winemaker in 1983. Success came quickly to Shafer Vineyards, with its very first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon winning the prestigious San Francisco Vintner’s Club taste-off. Shafer’s Hillside Select, the winery’s showcase made from 100% Cabernet grown on the steep slopes surrounding the winery, became a benchmark that epitomized the complexity, richness and elegance of the Stags Leap District. While Shafer built its reputation on its Cabernets, the winery also produces Merlot and Syrah from estate vineyards just outside the Stags Leap District as well as Chardonnay from Carneros. Shafer’s 2008 Relentless, a blend of Syrah and Petite Syrah was selected as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for 2012.  Despite success and high demand for its wines, Shafer Vineyards chose to remain small enough to be manageable, capping growth at about 32,000 cases. In addition to John and Doug Shafer, that team includes Elias Fernandez, who joined in 1984 and has been winemaker since 1994. The charm of drinking a glass of Shafer wine comes from knowing that the folks who made it are so intimately acquainted with the land, the vineyards and even the individual vines. In this age of global conglomerates, it is a quality that deserves to be cherished.

Wine

Shafer’s new proprietary blend of 56% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Malbec commemorates…. the tractor John Shafer drove to haul the rocks and cultivate the hillside that would become Shafer Vineyards. He was a man in his late forties, who left a comfortable job and home in Chicago to plant a vineyard in California when he knew next to nothing about farming. And learning to drive the ancient TD-9 International Harvester tractor was, perhaps, emblematic of the risks he took in starting that new life. In some ways the wine, TD-9, represents a similar bold move, for this is a Bordeaux blend in which Merlot (rather than Cabernet) is dominant and Malbec plays a significant role. Bottled on their own, Merlot and Malbec can each be delicious. In the TD-9 blend, however, Malbec deepens the color and adds dark plum and violet notes and acidity to the red-fruit tones and soft texture of Merlot; Cabernet provides the tannic structure and minerality we associate with the Stags Leap district. Despite the relatively high (15.3%) alcohol and 20 months aging in new French oak, TD-9 is a vibrant wine that explodes with complex fruit and teases with spicy, floral, and earthy notes. 

Appellation

Napa Valley

Varietal

58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec

Size

750ml

Closure

Cork

Alcohol

15.3%

UPC

013528900028