Shafer Vineyards, Napa Valley Stags Leap District, Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five,” 2006 ($70): Some wineries come out with new wines, line extensions or new brands as a normal matter of business. However, for a winery such as Shafer Vineyards--a fairly small (32,000 cases), family-owned estate winery--I imagine that a new wine is a big step, especially when that winery already enjoys a respected reputation from critics and connoisseurs. The new wine, in this case One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon, now in its third vintage, has mighty big shoes to fill.
Shafer Vineyards made its reputation with Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap area in eastern Napa Valley. The 1978 Napa Valley Cabernet from the “Stags Leap growing area” (the Stags Leap District AVA was recognized only in 1989) was the first release and it became an acclaimed wine. Beginning in 1983, the Shafers produced a second Cabernet, a Reserve from certain sites around the winery that in 1984 became their flagship Hillside Select Cabernet Reserve. Their two-tier Stags Leap District Cabernet offering continued until 1996, when winemaker Elias Fernandez replaced the basic Cabernet with a Napa Valley Cab using grapes from throughout the region, because sourcing enough Stags Leap District grapes had become problematic. Then in 1999, the winery purchased and planted a 25-acre site along the southern border of the Stags Leap district. This new vineyard became the primary source for the new One Point Five Cabernet, returning Shafer Vineyards to its roots as a producer of Stags Leap district Cabernet. The wine is 99 percent Cabernet and 1 percent Petit Verdot.
“One Point Five” is a highly personal name for a wine that obviously holds great sentiment for father and son team, John and Doug Shafer. Doug became winemaker at Shafer Vineyards in 1983, when the winery was still in what he calls its “fingers-crossed stage.” He worked side by side with his father, their two wine careers overlapping in the growth of the winery rather than following sequentially one to the next, as is the case for many established wineries. They therefore refer to themselves not as two generations but as a generation and a half.
One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon is classic Stags Leap District Cabernet in its softness, richness and suppleness of texture. It is a big, full-bodied Cab and has 14.9 percent alcohol, but it’s not a huge, powerhouse Cabernet by today’s standards. It is truly dry, is wonderfully harmonious, and has lovely balance and depth. Mineral notes of graphite and ink mix with tobacco, cassis, some red berry fruit and a bit of oak chariness on the nose; in the mouth, the same notes emerge, and the flavors are pronounced but not exaggerated. Their intensity meets the wine’s big structure and matches it, but neither part of the wine overwhelms the other. This is one of those wines that is so well made that it seems not made, but born…and maybe it was.
Although it can use some aeration before drinking, this wine is perfect now. Personally, I don’t see it as an extremely long ager, probably because of its alcohol level, but it will surely sustain five to ten years of cellaring.