The Shafer Story


Napa Valley pioneers Jacob Ohl and C. H. Linderman plant vineyards on future Shafer estate.


Italian immigrant Batista Scansi re-plants during Prohibition and sells fruit to home winemakers.

Italian immigrant Batista Scansi


Shafer family purchases 209-acre property including 30 acres of Scansi’s vineyards. John teaches himself to drive an old TD-9 tractor.


John Shafer plants Cabernet Sauvignon, creating small hillside vineyard blocks such as Sunspot and John’s Upper Seven.


John makes his first foray into winemaking with a batch of homemade Zinfandel from 50-year-old vines.

John Shafer


John makes his first Shafer Vineyards wine — a precursor to Hillside Select — with Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from John’s Upper Seven.


A bitterly cold January keeps Shafer’s first Cabernet from going through malolactic fermentation. John finds the warmth the wine needs when he wraps the barrels in electric blankets.

Electric blankets on barrels illustration


Shafer’s 1978 Cabernet is released and makes its debut at the first Napa Valley Wine Auction.

Shafer’s 1978 Cabernet


Shafer clears three acres of Zinfandel and buds over to Merlot.


Doug joins the winery as winemaker. When he tastes the 1982 lot from the Sunspot vineyard block he’s so impressed he talks John into keeping it separate from the others. With the Sunspot lot Doug creates Shafer’s one and only Reserve Cabernet.


Doug believes the Reserve deserves a better name and creates the first Hillside Select with the 1983 vintage.

Elias Fernandez is hired as assistant winemaker three weeks prior to his graduation from U.C. Davis.


Shafer releases its first Merlot, a 1983 vintage.

John leads an effort to petition the government to designate Stags Leap District an American Viticultural Area (AVA).


Shafer purchases 70-acre Red Shoulder Ranch in Carneros.

Shafer takes first steps toward sustainable agriculture, planting cover crops and erecting hawk perches and owl nesting boxes (to encourage these raptors to lower the gopher population) in Stags Leap District and Carneros vineyards.


Stags Leap District is approved as an AVA.


Doug is named winery president, Elias is named winemaker, and John takes the role of chairman.


Shafer’s first Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, 1994 vintage, is released and is named one of the Top Ten Wines of the Year by Wine Spectator magazine.

Red Shoulder Ranch


Shafer barrels move into a new state-of-the-art barrel room.

Barrel Room


First release of Relentless, 1999 vintage, named to honor Elias’ relentless pursuit of wine quality.


Shafer is dubbed “one of the world’s greatest wineries” by wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Vineyard landscape


Shafer celebrates 25 years of winemaking.

Shafer solar panels

Shafer constructs a 128-kW solar array and becomes the first winery in Napa and Sonoma to generate 100 percent of its power needs with solar energy.


Shafer releases first vintage of One Point Five Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon. The name plays off “a generation and a half,” a term Doug and John created to describe their long-time working relationship.


Shafer builds new 100kW solar array to power water reclamation pond and irrigation system for Hillside Estate Vineyards.


John and Doug Shafer are awarded the James Beard Foundation’s “Wine and Spirits Professionals of the Year.”

James Beard Award


Cody, Doug Shafer’s cheerful Golden Retriever, joins the winery staff and ensures that the hallways are reserved for racing.

Cody the dog


2008 Relentless is named “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator magazine

A Vineyard in Napa book

University of California Press publishes Doug Shafer’s critically acclaimed memoir, A Vineyard In Napa, a look back at 40 years of life inside Napa Valley’s wine industry.


John Shafer celebrates his 90th birthday

John Shafer


Shafer donates a five acre parcel to Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County to house the center’s first permanent rehabilitation aviary for wild birds.

A flying crow


Shafer releases first vintage of TD-9, a proprietary red blend. The name honors John Shafer’s risk-taking and sense of adventure leaving corporate America and teaching himself to drive a TD-9 tractor in his Napa Valley vineyard.

TD-9 wine with John Shafer