Vinous – 91
(15.5% alcohol): Dark red with ruby tones. Musky aromas of mocha, coffee, leather, licorice, creosote and herbs. Juicy and intense but without the explosive fruit of the 2010; a touch of asparagus gives the wine a greenness in the middle palate but there’s also plenty of supporting dark fruit and graphite minerality. Doug Shafer noted that this fruit was picked at up to 26 degrees Brix, but I still find it a bit light. Finishes with chalky tannins and a continuing element of greenness. Shafer described 2011 as "London in Napa Valley: it would not dry out." This was the first year the estate used its new optical sorter.
Anticipated maturity: 2016-2027
Robert Parker – 96
Possibly the Cabernet Sauvignon of the vintage, is Shafer’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Last year I thought it was a strong effort, but it’s even better now that it’s been bottled. With opaque black/purple color and notes of subtle burning charcoal embers, blueberry, blackberry and graphite, the wine has a certain Bordelais minerality, but then the richness of Napa kicks in. It’s full-bodied (somewhat unusual for a 2011) with lighter tannins, and no doubt the wine will be on a faster evolutionary track than vintages such as 2010, 2012 and 2013. Nevertheless, the Shafers and Elias said this was the toughest vintage they’d ever experienced. To be able to produce a compelling wine like this is a testament of their extraordinary skills and craftsmanship. This wine can be drunk now, or cellared for another 15-20 years.