A perfect score has to be considered in the context of its region. Shafer’s 2004 Hillside Select is tremendous as a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that competes with its peers at the highest levels. It’s always a fabulous wine, but in warm 2004, Shafer’s amphitheater vineyard sheltered the grapes, ripening them to perfection yet protecting the “iron fist in a velvet glove” structure that André Tchelistcheff defined as Stags Leap. This 100% Cabernet is tremendous in cassis, black currant and mocha flavors, and the 100% new French oak provides perfect additions of smoke and caramel. It’s soft and gorgeous enough to drink now, and should age well in a cool cellar for the next 20 years.
This vintage shocked me when I did my retrospective earlier this year, and the 2004 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select acquitted itself brilliantly in the vertical of Hillside Selects. It was a hot year, a relatively early harvest and there were worries that the heat had stressed the grapes, and there would be a lack of physiological ripeness and nuance. Those worries have not manifested themselves in this great Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky/purple-colored with notes of blueberry, blackberry, cassis, spring flowers, and a touch of toast, the wine is opulent, voluptuous and full-bodied with sweet tannin, just enough acidity to provide freshness, vibrancy and delineation, and a spectacular finish that goes on 40+ seconds. This is a killer, a showy and flamboyant style of Hillside Select that’s already drinking beautifully and should continue to do so for another 15-20 years. (RP)
Good deep red. Brilliantly pure, animated nose offers scents of redcurrant, spices, cedary cigar box and musky underbrush. Boasts outstanding thickness and depth of flavor and an uncanny balance of sweetness and acidity. At once bone-dry and incredibly plush, with the superconcentrated plum and redcurrant flavors complicated by sexy saline soil tones and a note of dark chocolate. Perhaps most impressive today on the suavely tannic, endless finish. This is wonderfully plush and pliant today but should continue to give great pleasure for at least another ten years. (ST)
This remains a bold, opulent, fleshy style, with explosive layers of spice, blackberry, cedar and crushed rock, ending with firm, ripe tannins and touches of mocha. Tannins lock in the finish and hold the flavors in place.—2004 California Cabernet blind retrospective (August 2014). Drink now through 2026. (JL, Web Only-2014)
Hillside Select has come to define Stags Leap District Cabernet; it's a luxury wine that still bears the reality of its place, in this case, a series of small knolls beneath the palisades at Napa Valley's eastern edge. Elias Fernandez coaxes a deliciously ripe wine from those hills, a combination of bright cherry and high-toned florals with bass notes that deepen to the marbled fatty richness of a grilled rib eye. It's dark, succulent and mouthwatering Cabernet, hard to resist.
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