Merlot was the wine that put Shafer on the map in the 1980s. The winery was producing a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay – but so was everyone else in Napa. Merlot is a difficult grape to get right in the vineyard and the cellar, and lives a love-hate relationship with fickle critics. Nonethless, Shafer’s rendition is a classic: soulful and timeless. The 2014 vintage marks the 31st release of Shafer’s Napa Valley merlot, a rich, racy red wine from a gorgeous vintage with fruit sourced from the Valley’s cooler southern end.
This is another in a string of warm, sun-soaked vintages from spring through early autumn. Consistent daytime heat and cool evenings formed the basis of a model growing season that produced fruit with abundant aromatics and concentration. Aged 20 months in French oak (75% new), the final blend is 78% Merlot, 14% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon.
According to Elias Fernandez, Shafer’s winemaker: “This was a beautiful vintage for Merlot. From the first pour, the wine opens an abundance of enticing aromas and mouth-coating flavours of fresh summer berries, dark plums, and strawberries, fresh herbs and flowers presented with juicy energy, surrounded by seamlessly-textured tannins that will age attractively with cellaring.”
“Dark red cherry, plum, spice, menthol, licorice and gravel are beautifully delineated in Shafer’s 2014 Merlot. This is a somewhat brisk, linear style, but it works nicely. Savory overtones add aromatic intensity and lift throughout. There is plenty to like, but readers should expect a slightly more reserved Merlot than is the norm here.”
91 points, vinous.com, Dec 2016
“Year in year out, this is one of the superstar wineries, not only in Napa Valley and all of California, but in the entire world. It’s the product of visionary John Shafer, who started in 1978 after a successful corporate career. He had the foresight and visionary genius to believe in the microclimates and soils of Stags Leap of the southern Napa Valley.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Nov 2015
“Shafer also makes one of the better Merlots. The 2014 Merlot includes 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and is a beauty. Mocha and chocolaty notes intermixed with red cherry, plum and blacker fruits jump from the glass of this perfumed and fragrant style of Merlot. It is medium to full-bodied, exceptionally pure and rich and should drink beautifully over the next 10-12 years of life. 2016-2028.”
92 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2016