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.
Stags Leap District AVA in southern Napa Valley has a storied history. It is home to Stag’s Leap Cellars, whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the famous Judgment of Paris blind tasting that included several of Bordeaux’s most exalted First Growths. Vineyards were started in area in the late 19th century, but the district’s rise in prestige started in the late 1960s when Nathan Fay planted Cabernet Sauvignon. Fay later sold his estate to Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Cellars. The district was given its own AVA designation in 1989, and today there are 1,400 vineyard acres. The AVA is especially notable because it was the first in the U.S. to be granted AVA status based on terroir. Its distinctive soils is a mix of volcanic soils, river sediment and loamy clay-like soil. Because the soils don’t retain water well, vineyards in Stag’s Leap tend to grow fruit with great intensity and flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for 95% of the grapes planted in Stags Leap.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.