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2010 vintage at Shafer Vineyards

A year of unusual challenges greatly rewarded vigilance and extra work in the vineyard

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The 2010 Vintage came with its own mix of surprises that kept the Shafer vineyard team guessing to the very last. Fortunately it was a happy ending – coming together in a fast-paced harvest of fruit that was abundant in flavor and color.

The growing season started with a cool, rainy spring that pushed back budbreak and fruit set by about two weeks.

The summer that followed was long and cooler-than-average holding fruit maturation at a slow, even pace. In late August temperatures spiked into the triple digits for a couple of days.

Coming at about veraison, the heat coincided with green harvesting giving the Shafer vineyard team double duty not only cutting away under-ripe fruit (as we always do at that point in the season) but also pruning any grapes or clusters that had not survived the heat wave.

By early September the season was still running two to three weeks behind, depending on the vineyard, and with rain expected to hit in late October we had to take additional steps to bring fruit in on time.

The most extreme example was in our vineyard called Borderline. In most years this is our last vineyard ready for picking, a cool, fairly low-lying 25-acre Cabernet Sauvignon site at the very southern end of Stags Leap District. To keep maturity on pace, we cut the fruit there to just one cluster per shoot, effectively dropping nearly half the crop to the ground.

All the extra work and strategy throughout our 200 acres of estates vines paid off. We were able to pick fruit for Hillside Select at ideal ripeness in the first half of October. The same goes for our Chardonnay fruit in Napa Valley's Carneros area.

The vineyard team picked the final fruit of the year at Borderline at 24.5 Brix two days before the rain hit in late October.

While we harvested less fruit in 2010, the fruit we kept shows promise for exceptional wines with incredible, dark color, and rich flavors.

The closest relative to 2010 would be 1992, which produced wines that were showstoppers in their youth and came with firm, fine tannins which generously rewarded long-term aging.