Red, Ready, but will keep

2011 Shafer Vineyards, Merlot, Napa Valley

2011 Shafer Vineyards, Merlot, Napa Valley

Red | Ready, but will keep | Shafer Vineyards | Code:  21538 | 2011 | USA > California > Napa | Merlot | Full Bodied, Dry | 15.0 % alcohol

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Scores and Reviews

WA - The 2011 Merlot (76% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot) exhibits a similar dense purple color along with slightly more subdued aromas of coffee beans, black cherries, black fruits and spice. It does not reveal the viscosity, density and overall completeness of the 2010. Nevertheless, this is a successful effort in a far more challenging vintage. Drink it over the next 6-9 years.
Robert M. Parker, Jr. - Wine Advocate - Issue#209 Oct 2013

The Producer

Shafer Vineyards

Shafer Vineyards

Shafer Vineyards is one of the star wineries, not only in Napa Valley but in all of California. It began in 1972 when John Shafer left a career in Publishing and moved to the Napa Valley with his family to pursue a career in wine.  The family purchased a large estate in the Stag’s Leap District, and set to work on replanting all the existing vineyards, which had been there since the 1920s. 

In 1978, the Shafers had their first harvest of Cabernet grapes, and began construction of their first winery in 1979. The Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon was of a high standard, and rose above other wines that were in competition. Their Chardonnay never undergoes malolactic fermentation: 75% is barrel-fermented and the other quarter in stainless steel. The Stags Leap One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon has won much acclaim, while the flagship wine in the Shafer portfolio is Hillside Select, a 2,400-case cuvée of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 32 months in 100% new French oak.

Doug Shafer graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in oenology and viticulture in 1983, and a year later Elias Fernandez joined the company as assistant winemaker. The two work together to produce consistent, high quality and elegant Shafer wines.

The Grape

Merlot

Merlot

The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and a grape that has been on a relentless expansion drive throughout the world in the last decade. Merlot is adaptable to most soils and is relatively simple to cultivate. It is a vigorous naturally high yielding grape that requires savage pruning - over-cropped Merlot-based wines are dilute and bland. It is also vital to pick at optimum ripeness as Merlot can quickly lose its varietal characteristics if harvested overripe.

In St.Emilion and Pomerol it withstands the moist clay rich soils far better than Cabernet grapes, and at it best produces opulently rich, plummy clarets with succulent fruitcake-like nuances. Le Pin, Pétrus and Clinet are examples of hedonistically rich Merlot wines at their very best. It also plays a key supporting role in filling out the middle palate of the Cabernet-dominated wines of the Médoc and Graves.

Merlot is now grown in virtually all wine growing countries and is particularly successful in California, Chile and Northern Italy.

The Region

Napa

Napa

North Coast's Napa Valley is California's most famous viticultural area (AVA), claiming some of the most expensive agricultural land in the world and producing wines of ‘cult’ status.

Its 16,000 ha of vines lie over a strip (40 miles long-5 miles wide) of diverse soils (clay, gravely, volcanic), with its northernmost end on the side of Mountain Helena and its foot in San Francisco Bay. The valley is framed by two mountains ranges Vaca (to the north) and Mayacamas (to the south), yet the main climatic influence is the cool wind and fog that is sucked in from San Pablo Bay during the afternoon, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. 

The area enjoys a variety of unique microclimates, as temperatures can vary dramatically as much as 15 degrees, from the north to the south end of the valley. These differences have led to the creation of several sub-AVAs (14 in total) including:

Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley District, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mt. Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Spring Mountain District, Stags Leap District, Yountville, Wild Horse Valley and Oak Knoll District. The Calistoga AVA is still pending approval.

Both the “Napa Valley” designation and the sub-AVA name must appear on the wine label simultaneously, with the exception of wines from the Carneros AVA, which is shared between the Napa Valley and the Sonoma County.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed king of Napa grapes, occupying over 45% of the vineyard acreage, followed by (predominantly) Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cab. Franc and to a lesser extent Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto.

Recommended Producers
Frog's Leap, Dominus, David Ramey, Viader, Stag's Leap Cellars, Paras Vineyards, Heitz.

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