Shafer Hillside Select - 91, 96, 01, 03, and 06.

This weekend, went to the Shafer Reception as part of Premiere Napa Valley and tried several older years of the Hillside Select. All wines tasted relatively soon after opening and not decanted. Some brief notes:

1991 Shafer Hillside Select - Fully mature, some bricking, mushroom, dusty nose and orange peel on the palate. Starting to dry up a bit, and opened up slowly in about a half hour. Nice wine.

1996 Shafer Hillside Select - Lots of tea, spice, light dark berry. Was a more elegant older style of Hillside with great structure. Similar to the 91, put on a little more weight after a half hour.

2001 Shafer Hillside Select - Shutdown and not expressive. Dark berries and mint were there, but was a lean, lighter style of Hillside with notably acidity. Did not revisit this wine.

2003 Shafer Hillside Select - A lovely balanced wine that showed very well. More pronounced and expressive dark fruits and mint. A good wine to drink on the younger side or next few years.

2006 Shafer Hillside Select - Floral nose, brighter red fruit coats the mouth, very ripe, and very straight forward. A drink young wine that will likely not get a whole lot better with extended cellaring.

They were pouring the 2008 Hillside Select Sunspot Vineyard Auction lot as well. Was more meaty, stew like, very closed and tight, but put on considerable weight in time. One of the top barrel samples tasted in what appears to be a not so great 2008 Vintage!

2008 is not so great?

Barrel samples that I had back in August and October suggested otherwise. What did you taste that gave you this impression?

FWIW, I had the 2002 HSS last night and it was signing. 97 point showing. Still needs time to resolve more of its tanins, but if you have a bunch consider trying one now. Also, I have yet to have a bad vintage of Shafer HSS going back to the 1998 vintage. Well, except for the 2005. The bottle of 2005 that I had was nearly undrinkable. But I think it needs a lot of time in the cellar…

Correct, I thought a significant portion of wines tasted during this event where rather ripe, lacking complexity and structure when compared to prior years, particularly 2007! Thought the 2008 wines as a whole had more in common with 2000, 2003, and 2006 than any other vintage. Tasted about 60 of the 200 Barrel samples at Premiere Napa Valley, and about 100 other wines in bottle from 2006 and 2007 at various tastings. Given the lots at PNV tend to be some of the best barrels from respective Napa Valley wineries, current impression is it will not be an exciting vintage as a whole. Will certainly influence my buying of 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet. Nothing was poured from Carneros, Russian River, and Sonoma Coast, so no opinion of these just yet!

I’m with you on that Curtis! Think Shafer is a model of consistency and really enjoyed the 2002 as well. In fact also have a hard time thinking of a bad bottle going back to 1998! Going back further, really enjoyed the 1992 and 1995 as well! Remember tasting the 2005 Shafer Hillside Select prior to release, and loved it, but have not revisited it since? I’ll gladly take your suggestion to hold off a few years . . .

Thanks for the notes. As you probably know, John made the wines initially, then his son Doug, and finally Elias F. There was a change in the Shafer Hillside Selects starting in 1992, and culminating in 1994.