Monday, September 6, 2010

Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical -- The Back Story

The #Cabernet Day Shafer Hillside Select 12-vintage vertical tasting generated a lot of excitement from its inception but a number of things had to fall into place in order to ensure that the final product matched up to the excitement in the air.  Over the next few posts I will cover the activities leading up to the tasting, the actual tasting, and the perspectives of selected attendees.  This post will cover pre-event activities. wanted to do something significant for #Cabernet Day and, after considering a number of ideas, decided on a Shafer Hillside Select vertical; a 12-vintage vertical no less, beginning with 1994 and ending with 2005.  John Allport, of Augustan Wine Imports -- the local Shafer distributor -- was approached with the idea and he agreed to provide whatever assistance was necessary.  He also volunteered to speak with Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara, currently head sommelier at Premier Beverage, to see if he could be enlisted to lead the tasting.  An affirmative response to this request was received in short order.

The second major decision that had to be made was the actual location for the event.  The first thought was Luma on Park as it had the large cellar downstairs which not only had the seating capacity, but also had electronic equipment which would allow us to access the internet and participate in the online celebration of #Cabernet Day.

Luma management was approached and was so excited by the concept that they offered to donate the space.  This was a significant concession as there is normally a $1000.00 minimum charge to book that space.

The next decision points were the number of attendees and what they should be charged.  The initial plan called for 25 attendees with a cost of $150.00 for participation.  Once the event was publicized, however, it quickly became apparent that a lot more than 25 people wanted to attend.  The final number of paying attendees was 42.  Once the headcount went north of 25, the number of bottles required needed to be adjusted upward.  After discussions with McNamara, it was decided that three bottles of each vintage would be required (a total of 36 bottles).

The wines were procured from local collectors with high-quality storage as well as online retailers with excellent reputations in the area of provenance.  The wines were collected at well in advance of the event and were stored standing up so that sediments would collect in the bottom of the bottle.  Thirty-six Shafer Hillside Select bottles standing together sure is a sight to see.

The event was shaping up to be a great treat for attendees.  Not only would they be tasting the 12 most recent vintages of the greatest American wine of today, they were also going to be walked through the tasting by one of the most electric and engaging Master Sommeliers in the business today and they were getting what appeared to be good value for their money.  Based on the lowest prices on, the total value of the wines that were tasted was $9147.00.  When combined with the 500 glasses needed for the tasting (another $2000.00) and the $1000.00 for the room (cost avoided), the cost (excluding printing costs) per attendee was $289.00.

The final requirement was for a set of literature that would carry through the tone of elegance set by the choices of wine, venue, and tasting leader.  The first order of business was a place mat which would have space for all of the vintages being tasted and would identify by year where each vintage was located on the mat.  Further, created a four-page booklet which contained Robert Parker's tasting notes for each of the vintages.

John Allport was instrumental in obtaining a a rich-looking, black-colored, spiral-bound document titled Shafer Owner's Manual which was placed on each table along with the Parker notes and a flyer titled Shafer: The Hillside Select Story.

The stage was now set for the actual event.

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