For Christmas dinner, I wanted to pull a decent bottle of wine off my rack to pair with my prime rib. Upon scrolling thru my CellarTracker list (kinda like spinning the wheel from The Price is Right), I landed on Shafer TD-9. Shafer is a Napa Valley winery on the end north of Stag’s Leap district (and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars), tucked back in hills away from Silverado Trail. Shafer was started back in 1973 by John Shafer and the family owned business now has his son Doug at the helm as president. Both John and Doug are highly regarded in the wine industry and were recognized in 2010 with the prestigious James Beard Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional award for their contributions which include petitioning, along with other Napa legends, to get Stag’s Leap District recognized as an AVA in the ‘70s.
John Shafer purchased a 30 acre plot in Napa back in 1972, moved his family from Chicago, and left behind his publishing job for the hillsides of northern California’s up and coming wine region. He didn’t know much about winemaking at the time but got quite well versed in the years to follow, with most of his learning coming by way of creating his first few vintages. A couple years following the inaugural release of Hillside Select in 1981, Doug Shafer took over the role of winemaker. He then subsequently hired Elias Fernandez to be the assistant winemaker in 1984. Elias Fernandez was then promoted to head winemaker in 1994, where he has remained since. Hillside Select, their flagship 100% Cab Sauvignon wine, has gone on to score a perfect 100 points 5 times since 2001. Sadly, the elder Shafer, John, passed away in 2019 but his legacy of excellence continues on.
TD-9 is a Bordeaux blend with this vintage containing 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16% Malbec. In the glass, it still has a very youthful, opaque ruby glow that stains the sides of the glass as it swirls up. It has aromatics of luscious blackberries and black currants with bits of chocolate, nutmeg, and leather. TD-9 dances on the palate like a kickline at a Rockettes performance. The tannins are smooth and graceful. Flavors of black fruit fill the mouth and don’t stop for minutes after the wine leaves. There’s a hint of minerality that is reminiscent of chewing on blackberry seeds. It’s a symphony in my mouth. And to think, this is their low-end wine! What else would you expect from one of the best wineries worldwide?!