Friday, November 6, 2020

Birthyear Vintage Wine for Family Birthday Dinner

 Birthyear Vintage Wine for Family Birthday Dinner

We joined son Ryan and his family in celebrating his birthday with a gala dinner featuring grilled tenderloin steaks, twice baked potatoes and haricots verts, and ceasar salad. Ryan opened from his cellar a Robert Foley Napa Valley Claret and I took from our cellar a classic historic label Napa Cab. 

Shafer Hillside Select is a classic Napa Valley premium label dating back to 1983. The prior year, 1982, was Ryan's birthyear, and for that vintage, Shafer produced this hillside vineyards Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which thereafter would be known as Shafer Hillside Select. 

Hillside Select is sourced from a collection of rugged, arid vineyard blocks that surround the winery in the Stags Leap District in Southeast Napa Valley. 

Founder John Shafer was a native of Chicago, hailed from northern suburb Glencoe, and lived for a time in nearby Hinsdale, Illinois. He moved to Napa Valley in 1972 when the Shafer family purchased a 209-acre property including 30 acres of Scansi’s vineyards. In 1973-74 Shafer planted Cabernet Sauvignon, creating small hillside vineyard blocks such as Sunspot and John’s Upper Seven.

 In 1978, John produced his first Shafer Vineyards wine, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from fruit sourced from John’s Upper Seven vineyard, a precursor to Hillside Select.

Doug Shafer joined his father John as winemaker in 1983. When he tasted the 1982 lot from the Sunspot vineyard block he was so impressed he talked John into keeping it separate from the others. With the Sunspot lot, Doug created this label, Shafer’s one and only Reserve Cabernet. Starting with the 1983 vintage, in 1984, the Reserve was rebranded as the first release of Hillside Select.

That inaugural release of Hillside Select, and those since, are sourced from the collection of 14 small vineyard blocks planted within an eons-old amphitheater-like structure of rock and volcanic soil that surrounds the winery. With scant soil nutrients and moisture, yields at harvest are meager and the berries are small, producing lush Cabernet Sauvignon fruit with dark color and intense, classic flavor.

Shafer Reserve hillside vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1982

Looking back on my records and published tasting notes, we last served/tasted this label at Ryan's birthday family dinner fifteen years ago on Nov 6, 2005 when I wrote, "Shafer Reserve Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon 1982 - RM 92 $49 - Final vintage before this wine was re-labeled the legendary Shafer Hillside Select - Full forward fruit of black cherry, plum, leather and cedar thru to the end. Amazing fruit and life in this 23 year old Napa from a modest vintage - birth-year of Ryan - tasted on his family birthday dinner."
My records also show we tasted this wine back on Jan 15 2003 when I published essentially the same tasting note. That bottle was consumed at Capital Grill in Tysons corner, VA. I actually remember that trip and dinner, but not necessarily that bottle tasting. 
The Shafer Hillside Select tasting notes date back to the 1983 vintage. They write, "Fully mature color and aromas. Nice acidity complements mature flavors and resolved tannins." Their 1984 release notes speak of 'herbal aromas'. These notes could also describe this release.
Tonight, this bottle showed amazing life for a 38 year old vintage bottle, exceeding our expectations. The color was ever so slightly tinged with a minor brownish hue and the slightest bit of cloudiness, still nicely structured and bodied with black cherry fruits offset by a slight layer of funky mustiness of dusty earthy leather with sprites of aromatic perfume and notes of herbs and cedar. A fun and intriguing tasting of a historic label, ready to drink as it is in decline approaching the end of its drinking window. It was remarkable for its age, never-the-less. 

RM 87 


For son Ryan's birthday, I also presented him with this limited release premium label Fantesca King Richards Pinot Noir 2008
This is fitting in that Ryan is actually my namesake, Richard, and this bottle was crafted and produced in limited quantities for the patriarch father of wine producer/ower Susan Hoff and husband Duane. 
We'll look forward to sharing this bottle at some point in the future. 

Ryan opened from his cellar this Robert Foley Napa Valley Claret.
Robert Foley Napa Valley Claret 2004
Robert Foley Vineyards is on Howell Mountain, in northeast Napa Valley. It was founded in 1998 when Napa Valley winemaker Robert Foley started making his own wine.

Robert (Bob) Foley began his wine making career in the Napa Valley in 1977, having just graduated from UC Davis with degrees in both Viticulture and Enology. He spent his first year working for Heitz Cellars, followed by 15 years as the founding winemaker for Markham Vineyards.

In 1992, Foley began another 15 years as the founding winemaker for Pride Mountain Vineyards. During this period, he also crafted wines for Switchback Ridge, Hourglass, Paloma, and School House wines. 

Primarily focused on Robert Foley Vineyards wines, he also works with Shelter, Padis Vineyards, Engel Family, Herson Family Vineyards, and Jenna Marise in the Napa Valley.

Foley’s first wine was this signature Claret, the term the British used to describe a French wines based on Bordeaux Blended varietals. He progressed to expand the portfolio with Petite Sirah, Merlot, Charbono and most recently a blend called 'The Griffin'. Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Foley “one of California’s most talented winemakers…(His) are consistently top-notch efforts with impressive personalities.” 
This is the Foley flagship, a Napa Valley appellation left-bank Bordeaux blend comprised of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot.
This label release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and 91 points by Wine Spectator.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, nicely balanced with well integrated bright vibrant ripe black cherry and black berry fruits with sprites of cherry cola, notes of vanilla, sweet oak, creme de cassis and spice with slight astringent bright acidity, moderate tangy tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.