I consider it an honor to be able to taste what Shafer creates. I had no idea when I first came into contact with them what kind of high-caliber wine experiences I was about to embark on. From the TD-9 Bordeaux blend to the Relentless Syrah — not to mention the Hillside Select I’m selfishly cellaring for a special occasion. Well, when I shared my last two experiences, there was an overwhelming response about how much people have enjoyed Shafer over the years — each vintage providing a unique experience. But one comment captured my attention: a recommendation to try Shafer Vineyard’s Chardonnay. I am pleased to say I was able to do so. Here is my story…
About the Wine: The Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the winery’s estate, Red Should Ranch vineyard located in the Carneros AVA of Napa Valley in California. The vineyard is named for the Red-shouldered Hawks who, amongst other birds of prey, play a a part in Shafer Vineyard’s sustainable farming practices.
The wine was fermented in combination oak or stainless steel, using all native yeast. The wine aged sur lies for 14 months, undergoing secondary, malolactic fermentation.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay to find comforting aromas of apples and buttermilk. This Chardonnay is a faint amber on the pour, settling into the glass with a strong, confident straw-yellow. Initial aromas are of buttermilk, sweet cream, white chocolate, and a thin line of acidity. Swirl and find scents of sunflowers, pollen, and the tropical-“ish” scent of white peaches and white nectarines. There’s also a round nuttiness and a background of beach water salinity. Pull the nose away and hover just above the glass and breath in the simultaneously dry but savory scents of a field of wheat blowing in a warm breeze.
The palate of the Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay is light, almost textrual on the tongue, with a medium-plus acidity that carries all the way through the tasting completely evenly. Dominant flavors are quite savory: lemon rind, dried wheat leaves, pineapple pith, lemongrass, and a burnt-butter nuttiness.
Food Pairing: I paired the Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay with a seared halibut with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes, pea and parsley purée, and a small salad seasoned with a honey vinaigrette.
Loved this pairing. The fullness of the white wine paired beautifully with the meatiness of the white fish. The fluffy interior of the potatoes complemented the mouthfeel of the wine. But it was the “stink” of the raw honey in the dressing that really married well with the Chardonnay. Something about that funkiness really brought out the earthiness in the wine — which is truly the backbone to the taste and textures.
More Info: I received the Shafer Vineyards 2016 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Adam!) Retail: $52. For more information about Shafer Vineyards, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Shafer Vineyards website.
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