Founder John Shafer wasn’t always a wine country cowboy. At 50 years old, Shafer left his business shoes and commuter trains behind in Chicago, trading them in for a pair of boots and a TD-9 tractor. Without a green thumb to speak of, he picked up his family and purchased his first piece of Napa Valley property. On that property were old sheds and ancient farming equipment  — among them an International Harvester tractor from the 1950s. One of his first challenges was learning how to drive the rickety old beast — but he loved every moment of it.

The TD-9 proprietary red blend is made each year with that same spirit — making the best of what you have and enjoying the process. “Any time you try something new, you take a gamble,” says winery president and John’s son Doug Shafer. “But the story of TD-9 is all about risk-taking and a sense of adventure – it was there at our founding and it’s part of our DNA today.”

About the Wine: The Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 Bordeaux Blend is made of 56% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16% Malbec sourced from Napa’s Stag Leap District AVA. The wine was aged in 60-gallon French oak barrels (100% new; Allier and Troncais cooperage) for 20 months.

15.3% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 Bordeaux Blend and it is immediately aromatic with brambly, but jammy blackberries and the dampness of midnight. On the pour the wine presents a dark, gem-like red, continuing to emit vibrant aromas. In the glass, this red blend is much darker and richer with the addition of a chocolate-y brown that creates the most voluptuous shade of maroon. It’s nearly impenetrable at the center, fading out toward that initial red-gem along the perimeter.

Initial aromas are of rich black cherry compote, the smoothness of a Parisian hot chocolate, vivacious green leaves, and damp tree bark. Swirl and release the scents of lighter berries like raspberries, strawberries, cranberries — along with a confident line of acidity riding delicately in the background.

The palate of the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 Bordeaux Blend is full, plush with tannins that come more and more forward as the taste progresses, predominantly on the tip of the tongue. The acidity, too, amplifies, leading to a very high-energy finish. Dominant flavors are of black cherry, fresh oak barrel, eucalyptus leaf, sweet peppers, soy, a bit of anise, and just a touch of lingering smoke or ash on the finish. The after breath if filled with a pot pourri of those fruit elements — all in their dehydrated form.

Food Pairing: I paired the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 Bordeaux Blend with a veal roulade (rolled with prosciutto, craisens and goats cheese), roasted carrot purée, and grilled fennel, leek and endive. This was, indeed, a perfect food-wine marriage in my book. The roasted carrots brought out that somewhat hidden smokey element in the wine, while the meat and roasted veggies both seemed to soften the wine’s texture while simultaneously celebrating the fruitier components. I would pair this wine exactly the same way again (and hope I do).

More Info: I received the Shafer Vineyards 2015 TD-9 Bordeaux Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers Rosa and Andy!) Retail $60. For more information about Shafer Vineyards, their wines and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Shafter Vineyard website.

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