Category Archives: Californian Cabernet Sauvignon

Dec 12 2011

Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine – Close to Immortality in a Glass!

Posted on December 12, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

“Close to Immortality in a glass” was how the Wine Advocate’s critic Robert Parker characterised the critically acclaimed 1994 vintage of the Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine. 1994 is one of five vintages (the others being 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2007) that have been awarded 100 points by Parker. Not bad for a wine that only made its debut with the 1990 vintage! (Wine Advocate #114, December 1997)

The success of Napa’s Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine over the past twenty years, while remarkable, is perhaps not unexpected given the pedigree of the team behind its exquisitely 19th century inspired ‘engraved’ label.

Bill Harlan was determined to make a ‘first growth’ Bordeaux blend style wine in California. After touring the top wine growing areas in Europe, he realised that most of the world’s best wineries were located on hillsides.

In 1983 he purchased 230 acres of hilly woodlands just west of the famed Heitz Cellar’s Martha’s Vineyard. Thirty six acres of vineyards were planted on the steep hillsides, where the infertile, well drained soils with good sun exposure provided ideal conditions for perfectly ripening the Bordeaux blend varieties of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.

Working with winemaker Bob Levy and drawing on the talents of superstar Bordeaux consultant Michel Rolland, Harlan left nothing to chance to create a wine that truly captures the essence of its terroir. Everything in both the vineyard and the winery is done with an eye on perfection. The beautifully contoured, hand tendered vineyards are meticulously kept, tiny bins are used for hand picking so the grapes can be hand-sorted, and like at Château Haut-Bailly and Château Pape Clément in Bordeaux, the wine is moved by gravity, rather than pumps, through all the different steps of winemaking.

Jancis Robinson has described the … Read the rest

Oct 10 2011

Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select: California’s Finest Cabernet Sauvignon?

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine critic James Suckling recalls a very special tasting he attended in Florence in 2006. The 1997 and 2001 vintages of top Californian cult wines, drawn from the cellar of Bordeaux Chateau owner and Swiss collector Silvio Denz, were blind tasted against a group of top Tuscan cult wines from the same vintages.

A dozen tasters, mostly Swiss wine merchants, declared the Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select the overall winner. Quite an accomplishment given that the Californian competition included celebrated names like Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Arajo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard, Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Herb Lamb Vineyard, Dalla Valle Maya Napa Valley and Harlan Estate Napa Valley. (Florence Tasting: Cults Versus Cults or California Versus Tuscany by James Suckling, Wine Spectator, 27 November 2006)

While the result surprised Suckling, the Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, first released in 1978, has long been making headlines. The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker calls it one of Napa’s most profound wines.

Exhibiting flavours of black fruit, mocha, black plums, cassis, juicy black and red cherry, black tea, with spice and warm toast, the wine is aged for 32 months in 100% new 60-gallon French oak barrels and bottle aged for about a year before release.

When John Shafer bought Shafer Vineyards in the Stags Leap district in 1972, he was one of the first to cultivate vineyards on the hillsides. With gradients up to 45% and less than 50 centimetres of poor, rocky vocanic soil above weathered bedrock, conditions proved ideal for keeping yields low and creating ripe concentrated fruit.  The vineyards are sustainably managed with a range of vineyard exposures and a diversity of clones ensuring the consistency of the innovative Hillside Select style regardless of the vagaries … Read the rest