Located in the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley, Shafer Vineyards is one of the valley’s most enduring success stories. Founded in 1972 by John Shafer – who left a corporate life in Chicago to grow grapes in Napa Valley – the winery was run by John with help from his son Doug for many years. The winery’s first Cabernet Sauvignons were made in 1978, and in 1994 Doug Shafer took over as president. Elias Fernandez, now one of the valley’s most admired winemakers, joined Shafer as an assistant winemaker in 1984 and became head winemaker 10 years later. The partnership between the Shafers and Fernandez is one of the oldest in the valley, and is generally thought to be one of the keys to Shafer’s success. Today the winery produces 32,000 cases of wine from its 54 acres of vineyards. Shafer Hillside Select is the signature Cab, though the company also makes Merlot and Syrah.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,