The 1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select was produced during a challenging vintage in Napa Valley with an incredible heat wave in mid-July, with temperatures at the Hillside Select property hitting an astonishing 114 degrees. This was brutal for the grapes, but a strict selection, and as Doug and John Shafer said, “We make no excuses at this winery.” Certainly, this was one of the great successes in this vintage. Very tiny yields from small, rather shriveled berries produced a super-extracted, rich, intense wine that has some smokey barbecue notes along with blackcurrants, cedar wood, wet rocks and background oak and burning embers. There's almost a Graves-like, scorched earth character to this vintage. This medium to full-bodied wine is intense and undeniably one of the top ten wines in Napa Valley. (RP)
An absolute joy, and a very great success for this vintage, which produced so many disappointing Cabernets. Unusually dark. Begins closed, but swirling brings out cassis and loads of smoky oak. Dense and lush, it’s incredibly long on flavor, with fabulous intensity. The reputation of this collector’s wine is undiminished. *Cellar Selection* (SH)
While never wanting for intensity or sheer volume, this very big-bodied, massively extracted wine is now showing its ripeness and lacks the polish displayed by the very best of its kin. It is loaded with chocolate and crème caramel oakiness, but it is a bit coarse at the edges and lets palpable heat come through at the end. It is still a very good wine and one that will develop for ten years or more, but it will find favor most with collectors who like their Cabernets big and dramatic. *Two Stars*
Rich and enticingly earthy, with layers of dried currant, blackberry, anise, mineral and mocha flavors that are pure and focused, complex and long. Ends with chewy tannins. The best of two bottles tasted. (JL, Web—2009)
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