Sunday, March 3, 2013

Doug Shafer (Shafer Vineyards) in da house

At a recent coming-out party for proprietor Adam Chilvers (No not that kind. He recently became a dad for the first time and had been confined to barracks. This was his first night out on the town in a while.), I got into a discussion with John Allport of Augustan Wine Imports about the possibility of hosting a winemaker from the Augustan portfolio at my home (something I had done previously). John said that Doug Shafer was coming into town in late February and he would look into the possibility of having Doug participate in such an event. And he came through. Not only did he gain Doug's agreement to attend, he also locked in Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant (one of the leading chefs in Orlando) to prepare the evening's dinner. I was, needless to say, very excited.

The dinner was scheduled for Tuesday February 26th. We had spent the prior weekend in Napa attending Premier Napa Valley (PNV13) and had only arrived back in Orlando on Monday night. My wife did a yeoman job getting everything in place to allow us to receive guests by the 5:30 pm start time.

A total of 17 people were invited, drawn primarily from the restaurant and wine-retail industries and preferred customers of the wine retailers. I had invited Ron and Adam to come a little ahead of the others and, true to form, Ron brought along a bottle of Jacques Selosse Initiale which he opened to initiate the proceedings.  Doug and Rob Chase, also of Augustan Imports, arrived shortly before 5:30 and the party was officially underway.

The dinner was being held on the lanai off our pool deck but we started drinking Champagne at the kitchen counter. My wife tried to nudge us outside but she was not making much headway. She eventually banished us down to the wine room so that she could have the kitchen area free for the chefs sole use. Once we were in the wine room, Ron whipped out a 1957 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Combottes which I followed with a 1967 Biondi-Santi. This was going to be a good night.

Ron and Doug
My initial plan was to have current-year Shafer wines accompany the dinner and then to taste a four-vintage vertical of Hillside Select to wrap up the evening. Doug was cool with this plan when it was floated.  Once on site, however, he said we did not have to hew to that line. He drank the stuff every day and would not be averse to a different experience. Music to my ears.  Allowed me to do what I love doing best.  Raiding the slots in my cellar.

But before we started free-styling, there was some business to be taken care of. In anticipation of the vintage Hillside vertical, Ron had brought along some old Shafers from his cellar and we thought we would taste those first and get Doug's thoughts on them.

The wines were 1979, 1982, and 1985 vintage and a close examination of the labels show the evolution of the Shafer branding process.  The 1979 and 1982 labels appear at first glance to be similar but on closer inspection the 1982 label has a gold outer banding and an inner gold banding which is wide at the base and has written on it the word Reserve. According to Doug's conversation with Ron, the 1979 was 100% Hillside fruit and was the estate's second vintage. The 1982 Cabernet Reserve was 100% Sunspot (Shafer's best vineyard) fruit and it was the only time that they have ever put the word reserve on the label. The words "Hillside Select" feature more prominently on current labels than it did in the 1985 but overall it is a more recognizably modern label.

We had been munching on cheese and nuts during this period but the word came down that the chef-made appetizers were ready and would be served on the lanai. Hunger was our guide.

Chef Fonzo started us off with two appetizers: (i) goat cheese in a puff pastry and (ii) crab avocado on a crostini. The appetizers were followed in turn by a micro-salad under shrimps and apples.  I paired the salad with a 2008 Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Perrières.

Doug is a wonderful, unassuming conversationalist and by this time he had had a personal conversation with everyone present about every topic under the sun. The juice kept flowing and so did the courses: a fish course followed by a meat course then a cheese plate.

By now it was close to 9:30 pm, the appointed time for Doug's departure.  The car that had been arranged for him was waiting in the driveway. He had been a perfect guest of honor and we hated to see him go. But the party must go on; and so it did. In his honor of course.

Doug, you are welcome in our town anytime.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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