Shafer Vineyards is perhaps best known for its legendary “Hillside Select” bottling, one of the classic “Cult Cabernets” of Napa and arguably one of the grape variety’s greatest expressions anywhere. But with a price-tag north of $200, it’s a wine that most consumers read about and fantasize over, yet rarely have the chance to taste. (If you do, however, jump at the opportunity: It’s every bit as remarkable as you’d expect.)
That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t experience Shafer on a budget. The Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” bottling is consistent with the Shafer style, yet priced around $70--not cheap, but certainly do-able for a special occasion. And then there’s the “Relentless” bottling, a Syrah - Petite Sirah blend that rings in around $60, and that is lush and delicious enough to almost make you wish for the weather to turn colder and the snows to finally begin rolling in, just so you can curl up with a bottle on the couch. My tasting notes are below, followed by a video from the Shafer web site on the origins and inspirations of the wine.
Shafer “Relentless” 2008, Napa Valley
Inky and concentrated in the glass, this wine lives up to its “relentless” name before you even smell it. Once you, do, however, the real fun begins: Concentrated aromas of flowers, black raspberries, and dark cherries are joined by blueberry compote, minerals, melted black licorice, tamarind paste, and something that reminds me of a balsamic drizzle. These lead to flavors of plum pudding and crushed, super-ripe blackberries, as well as a real sense of savoriness--whole, subtly floral peppercorns, iron, and grilled venison. Complex and exuberant, this is a wine that just gives and gives. It’s great now, either on its own or with rich meats (I loved it alongside barbecued spare ribs), and promises another 5+ years of evolution. Remarkable.