One of the most iconic Chardonnay wines produced in California, Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay bears the elegant imprint of its vineyard home – 68 acres that roll across the pastoral hill country of Los Carneros, a place where Napa Valley meets the northernmost rim of San Francisco Bay.
Cooled by the marine breezes off the Bay, the region has a long, steady growing season well-suited to growing superior quality Chardonnay. Shafer harvested their first fruit from this vineyard in 1994.
The vineyard is named to honor the Red-shouldered hawks who, along with other birds of prey, play a vital role in the winery’s sustainable farming practices. The local hawks and kestrels keep the population of vine-damaging gophers naturally under control so no rodent poisons are ever needed, keeping the vines and soils healthy.
The wine is 100% Chardonnay, whole-cluster pressed and fermented with wild yeast in individual barrels (75% oak, 25% stainless steel). No malolactic fermentation is allowed. Aging is 14 months in 75% new French oak barrels (Allier, Vosges) and 25% in stainless steel barrels.
Shafer Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery located in the Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley. It was founded in 1972 by John Shafer who left a 23-year career in the publishing industry to pursue a second career in wine. After purchasing a 210-acre estate, the family faced the arduous task of replanting the existing vineyards which dated back to the 1920s.
Evolving from grape growers to vintners, the Shafers crushed their first Cabernet grapes in 1978 and began construction on their winery a year later. The first Shafer Cabernet became a benchmark, winning the acclaimed San Francisco Vintners Club taste-off upon release and, over a decade later taking first place in an international blind tasting held in Germany, where it outranked such wines as Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Palmer.
Doug Shafer became winemaker in 1983 after graduating from the University of California at Davis with a degree in enology and viticulture. A year later, Elias Fernandez joined the winery as assistant winemaker. Together Doug and Elias have worked closely to forge the Shafer style of quality, consistency and elegance.
New vineyards have been added over the years, with acreage acquired in the Oak Knoll, Stags Leap and Carneros districts, bringing the total Shafer vineyard acreage to over 200 acres. Winery facilities have been expanded and extensive caves carved into the hillside for aging wine.
In 1994, Elias was appointed winemaker, and Doug took over the reins as president when John became chairman of the board.