In contrast to the more linear, structured, but massive 2001, the 2002 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is pure fruit-bomb material, but stunningly proportioned, beautifully pure, with notes of melted chocolate, blackcurrant jam, sweet black cherries, licorice, camphor and charcoal. Very full-bodied, like the 2001, but much more lavishly fruited, it is more accessible and hedonistically, as well as intellectually, satisfying. If the 2001 is the long-distance runner, this comes across more like a middle-distancer. It had performed fabulously well since it was released by the winery, and even though it’s still an adolescent in terms of its evolution, this wine is a head-turner in wine tastings, and a spectacular effort from Napa. Drink now or drink in 20-25 years. (RP)
The impression is of a young, tannicly closed but enormously promising Cabernet. Floods the mouth with dramatic black currant, cherry and chocolate flavors, masses of toasty, caramelized new oak, and a rich, minerally earthiness. For all the power, there’s elegance and refinement. *Cellar Selection*
Very young, rich and extracted, this boasts a dense, powerful presence and tannic core flavors of blackberry, black licorice, cedar, mocha, roasted coffee, loamy earth, vanilla and dried herb. A tour de force of flavor, ending with ripe, muscular tannins. (JL, Web Only—2012)
The vines that produced John Shafer's first Cabernet in 1978 now form the core of Hillside Select, from the small knolls surrounding the winery. They grow in a sweet spot of the Stags Leap District, farmed since the mid-eighties by Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez; since 1991, they have consistently produced one of the top wines of the Napa Valley. Those vines yielded an intensely structured 2002, posh with supple Cabernet fruit and dark minerality in the tannins. It feels sleek even as the delicious berry flavors burst out of the tannins and last. Extremely young and fresh, this will start to reach peak drinking 10 to 15 years from the vintage.
Good dark red. Perfumed, liqueur-like aromas of black plum, dark berries, licorice and cocoa powder. Dense, thick and very ripe but still a bit youthfully brooding; shows the darkest fruit character to this point in the tasting. This extremely dense, thick, youthfully brooding Cabernet finishes with serious ripe tannins and good medicinal reserve. If the 2001 is claret-like in the context of this bottling, then the 2002 is classic liqueur-like Napa Cabernet, even if it's in a bit of a shell today. Less detailed today than the 2001 but I'd love to try these wines side by side again in six or seven years. 94+ (ST)
In what has proven to be a sometimes difficult year, Shafer shines once again with this spectacular, immensely extracted Cabernet . Underpinned by a wealth of concentrated cassis-like fruit, shot through with rich, loamy spice and awash in altogether extravagant oak, it is a wine that does not speak in hushed tones but comes with plenty of drama. For all of its very considerable weight and undisguised power, it still shows a fine sense of overall balance, and the evident tannins and heat that emerge in its very long finish are beautifully buffered by its deep and wholly compelling fruit. *Two Stars*
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