Released September 1, 2015
Suggested California retail: $55.00
“[Shafer] has been making much-praised Merlot for many decades.
— Lettie Teague, The Wall St. Journal
This was a classic Napa Valley vintage filled with warm, sunny days and perfect, chilly nights from spring through early autumn. The consistency of heat and coolness created a model growing season in which we harvested fruit at ideal ripeness brimming with rich color and flavor.
“From the moment you pull the cork the wine is fragrant, bright, and fresh with rich, enticing aromas and flavors of briar fruit jam, black currant, black cherry, sage, herbs, red berries, and vanilla wrapping up with a long, vibrant finish that you’ll wish would never end.”
— Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez.
Merlot is a finicky grape – a bit too much rain, a touch of frost early in the season – will easily result in less than ideal fruit. Early on each season our vineyard team culls any weaker fruit leaving only the best-of-the-best on the vine, ensuring that the wine exhibits lush, ripe, mouthfilling flavors that are true to varietal character.
While this wine is officially designated with the Napa Valley appellation, its fruit is sourced from within just a three-mile radius in the Valley's cooler southern end. Half of our fruit for our Merlot comes from a hilly Shafer-owned vineyard we've informally dubbed, "School Bus," located about a quarter mile due south of Stags Leap District. The remainder is cultivated within Stags Leap District by growers we've worked with closely for years.
Finding Our Wines
Robert M. Parker Jr.’s The Wine Advocate,
“… exhibits dense ruby/plum color, sweet berry fruit mixed with background oak, soil undertones and a touch of unsmoked cigar tobacco. A little chocolate is also in the mix.”
— Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate (Oct. 2014)
“Black cherry, raspberry, a touch of cinnamon and some mint waft up from the glass. Less sweet on the palate, cranberry and raspberry join the cherry. Loads of spice plus eucalyptus shine through on the palate. This is no flabby over-ripe mass produced Merlot. It has balance, firm tannins, and sense of place. Drink with spicy flank steak. Highly recommended.”
“… Deep, rich aromatics, needing air and swirling to coax them out, but lots of complexity in here: black cherries, blackberries, tart plums, along with a medley of earthy-savory aspects (mushroom, leather, coffee, eucalyptus), sweet vanilla and toast. Full-bodied with sturdy tannins and medium-low acid, but the wine maintains a velvety richness. The blackberry, plum skin and blueberry fruit is full, ripe but sexy, and tossed together with plenty of tobacco, mocha, cedar, loamy soil and graphite notes. Complex, long, deserving of cellar time to unravel the complexities and let the wine smooth out, but this is a beauty. A burly wine at 15.3% alcohol, but so delicious.”
“Although best known for its superb Cabernet and Chardonnay, Shafer also has a long and distinguished track record with Merlot. The 2013 shows impressive weight, layered plum and dark berry fruit, and a firm grip on the finish. Very good now but even better with another couple of years in the bottle.”
— Robert Whitley, Wine Review Online
“ … bright, inviting, black fruit-and-herb-driven … delivers all you’d want, down to the long finish.”
— Peter M. Gianotti, Newsday
“In the post-Sideways world, it takes some confidence to make a merlot; Shafer, year in and year out one of Napa’s truly outstanding wineries, has earned that confidence. This vigorous blend of 84 percent merlot and equal parts cabernet sauvignon and Malbec shows what a mistake it would be to tar all merlots with one brush.”
The origin story of our decades-long love affair with this wine, in which Doug Shafer reveals how he talked his dad, John Shafer, into launching Merlot production back in the early 1980s.
What is a Diam cork?
A Diam cork is made from 100% natural cork that is finely ground and put through a cleaning process that, at the molecular level, eliminates TCA (the chemical compound that causes wines to be “corked”) and other microbial contaminants that produce off flavors. Wine corks are produced in France from this clean ground cork using an FDA-approved, food-grade binding agent. For more details on the process visit this URL: http://www.diam-closures.com/Process-en
Why is Shafer using Diam corks?
We don’t want a single bottle of Shafer wine to be corked. Ever. Over the past 30 years we have gone to extraordinary lengths to eliminate the presence of TCA in the natural corks we used and have been 98% to 99% successful. That’s not good enough. We want to be 100% TCA-free and using this cork will get us there.
What do you like about Diam corks?
We have tested Diam corks in trials for seven years and have come to believe the company’s guarantee that its corks are 100 percent free of TCA. In addition, these corks offer something else that natural corks cannot – a guarantee of the amount of oxygen the cork allows into the bottle over time. This is referred to as Oxygen Transfer Rate (OTR). Natural corks, by contrast, have inconsistent density and permeability, which means a variable amount of oxygen is allowed into the bottle. Using a Diam cork ensures that your wine won’t be “over the hill” before its time.
Why are Diam corks used in your Chardonnay and Merlot but not the other wines?
We have tested these corks for seven years and we like the results. Our Merlot and Chardonnay are wines that we know most consumers enjoy within two to five years of release. We continue to test these corks to see how they perform in terms of long-term aging.
How are Diam different from other composite corks?
Unlike other composite corks, Diam uses a safe, clean process to eliminate TCA from ground natural cork at the molecular level – it’s the same process used to remove caffeine from coffee beans. Also, Diam engineers its cork density to guarantee a consistent rate at which oxygen is allowed into the bottle over time. This ensures that every bottle will age in your cellar at a similar rate.
Can Diam corks be recycled like natural corks?
Yes. Most corks collected in recycling bins are re-purposed to make cork flooring, as such, Diam is perfectly useful.
Can I trust the Diam corks in your wines?
Yes. We have tested these corks for seven years and would not use them it we did not fully believe they are what’s best for the wine.