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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Shafer Vineyards - Stags Leap District - Napa Vall

94 Pts Wine Enthusiasts, 92-94 Pts. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

For the past thirty-plus years, Shafer Vineyards of the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley has been considered one of the world’s premier wineries, consistently producing exceptional wines. In numerous competitions, and, in particular, preeminent international competitions, Shafer has fared remarkably well.

Begun in 1972 by John Shafer, now 86, the winery was almost an instant success. His first vintage of 1978, that featured a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, won the acclaimed San Francisco Vintners Club taste off, considered at the time a sort of modern miracle. A decade or so later in Germany, the same wine won out over a number of major Bordeaux Chateaux in an international blind tasting event, giving added prowess to the winery. It is simple to say that Shafer Vineyards has never looked back from its esteemed beginnings.

John Shafer’s son Doug, 55, took over the winemaking chores at Shafer Vineyards in 1983, after graduating from UC Davis with an enology and viticulture degree. A year later, Elias Fernandez joined the small company as assistant winemaker. Born in Napa Valley, Fernandez had worked at such prestigious wineries as Schramsberg Vineyards, Louis Martini Winery and Cuvaison Estate Wines - all considered benchmark wineries in the Napa Valley.

“We had a special relationship from the very beginning,” recalled Doug Shafer during a recent interview. “Elias was a unique person, an extremely gifted worker who was able to take his duties to the next level. In a word, he was passionate about his job.” Another decade and numerous successes later, Doug took over the reins at Shafer. Elias Fernandez was named winemaker, a position he continues to hold to this day. During this period, Fernandez has been the recipient of many awards and accolades, including induction into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Hall of Fame. In 2002, Elias Fernandez was named Winemaker of the Year by both the Quarterly Review of Wines and also Wine and Spirits magazine. During that same period, Shafer Vineyards was named as One of the 25 Great Vineyards in the World by the same Wine and Spirits magazine.

Sometime in the early to mid 1990’s Shafer Vineyards became interested in planting some Rhône varietals on their hillside property. Several varietals were planted on 18 acres, including Syrah and Petite Sirah, the foundation grapes of the Rhône Valley. The vines enjoyed their new surroundings and have provided exceptional fruit for both Doug Shafer and Elias Fernandez to work with. Doug Shafer continued his comments. “By 1999, Elias and I had been together a long time and had worked side by side for years. I wanted to be able to recognize this terrific winemaker who was so completely loyal to what we were attempting.

I wanted to produce a Rhône blend using Syrah and Petite Syrah and name it for him. Around the winery, he was lovingly referred to as the Junkyard Dog, so I thought the name Junkyard Dog Ranch would be quite fitting. When I proposed the name at a board meeting as president, it was naturally shot down. We finally settled on Relentless because that word accurately describes one of Elias’ greatest attributes. I still enjoy the Junkyard Dog moniker, but I was completely overruled.” While Shafer has grown through the years to a 33,000-case facility, it remains a tight knit family winery that doesn’t see much expansion in the future. Doug Shafer feels that Shafer Vineyards is firmly ensconced in a niche that allows for permanency and continued worldwide acceptance.

Accolades have continued to flow in for the heralded Napa Valley winery, a fact that Doug Shafer accepts with complete delight.

“I am always very pleased that our wines are so well received by the reviewers, judges, and most importantly, the general public. Like any winery, we couldn’t make a go of it without a loyal following to count on. Year after year, we strive to produce products that are of a certain level, a level our followers have come to expect of us.” Many insiders believe that Shafer Vineyard’ s style, a bold, yet elegant wine that ages incredibly well is the secret to the winery’s continued success. Everyone at the winery concedes the wonderful soils and surroundings of the Stag’s Leap District contribute mightily to the overwhelming success of the wines.

“It’s a great combination,” Doug Shafer finalized. “Great land, great vines that produce wonderful fruit, and a loving winemaking family that handles each grape with tender care. What better environment could anyone ask for?”

  1. Shafer
    2006 Proprietary Red Blend
    Napa Valley


    95 - Connoisseurs' Guide
    id: 748