Feb 13 2009

Shafer’s Well-Crafted California Cult Cab

Published by at 3:00 PM under Red Wines,Savvy Sip Tips,Wine Education

Let’s talk about California cult wines a bit, shall we? I was prompted to think more about these after attending a tasting of Shafer Vineyards Napa Valley wines yesterday at Blackbird. One of the wines was the Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon which is known to be quite a collector’s wine (we got to taste 3 vintages of it: the 2000, 2002 and 2004). The wine has a cult following because it’s an exemplary Napa Cab made on very small lots in very limited productions (which also means it’s expensive, of course). The appellation’s terroir produces very sought-after, expressive Cabernets, for which people are willing to pay an arm and a leg. And, I can see why.

They are delicious. And, if I had the extra money, I’d collect them too. The 2004 Hillside Select Cab was bold and well-balanced with jammy, dark fruit flavors up front layered upon by dark chocolate, cherry and black pepper on the palate. The oak ageing and tannins provide the perfect amount of structure for this mouthful of rich, yummy goodness. It’s the kind of wine you sip and understand quickly, whether you’re an aficionado or not, why it’s called a “cult” wine.

Yesterday, we sipped through 7 total wines: the 2007 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay; 2006 Merlot; 2006 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon; 2005 Relentless; and the 2000, 2002 and 2004 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. (Quick sidenote: We also met Doug Shafer, who was very friendly and gracious. He’s originally from Hinsdale, IL, but left for Cali after high school.) All the wines poured were impressive, but of course, it was the Hillside Select Cab that stole the show. It was interesting to taste the 3 vintages in a row because as they got older, they so evidently became more complex with softer tannins. The juicy, black fruit aromas and flavors matured (as a result of the oak ageing) into earthier flavors of wood and tobacco. And, my mouth is now watering just thinking about them!

Have you had a California cult wine that put you over the edge – in a good way, of course? Or, perhaps you’ve had one that made you wonder about this whole cult following status? Inquiring minds want to know, so please do share.

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