Shafer Vineyards traces its beginnings to 1972 when John Shafer left a 23-year career in the publishing industry and, with his family, moved to the Napa Valley to pursue a second career in wine.
Evolving from grape growers to vintners, the Shafers crushed their first Cabernet grapes in 1978 and began construction of their winery a year later. The first Shafer Cabernet became a benchmark, taking first place in an international blind tasting held in Germany, where it outranked such wines as Château Margaux, Château Latour and Château Palmer.
Doug Shafer became winemaker in 1983. 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. In 1994, Elias was appointed winemaker, and Doug took over the reins as president when John became chairman of the board.
The winery has grown steadily until reaching its present size of 32,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, sourced from the Hillside estate right around the winery, is recognized as one of the finest and most collectable wines in the world.
Doug Shafer arrived in Napa Valley at age 17 from Chicago. His first few years in the Valley proved to be formative ones. The enjoyment he had helping his dad in the vineyards during high school, inspired him to enroll in the enology and viticulture program at the University of California at Davis. While completing his university studies, Doug spent summers working with his father in the vineyards while further expanding his understanding of the wine industry working at Hanns Kornell and Robert Mondavi wineries. Meanwhile, his father was preparing to crush the first vintage of wine in 1978. Following graduation, Doug honed his skills as assistant winemaker at Lakespring Winery prior to becoming winemaker at Shafer Vineyards in 1983.
During his years as the family winemaker, Doug forged the trademark Shafer style of quality, consistency, and elegance. Vintage by vintage, he learned to highlight the natural character of the grapes from his family’s hillside vineyards, crafting wines that reflect the Stags Leap District character of rich fruit and silky tannins. During this period he also managed the estate vineyards, launching the winery on the road to sustainable farming developing a new 66-acre vineyard in the Carneros district, the source for Red Shoulder Chardonnay. In 1994, Doug took over the reins as president of Shafer Vineyards He continued to refine the Shafer wine portfolio working closely with Elias Fernandez, the winemaker to develop a vineyard in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains that would be the source for the Syrah and Petite Sirah of Relentless, which in 2012 was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year. He also purchased a 25-acre hay field in Stags Leap District, developing it into the predominant vineyard source for One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon.
Doug Shafer has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout his career including the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professionals” which he shared with his father. In 2012 University of California Press published A Vineyard in Napa, Doug’s critically acclaimed memoir, recounting 40 years inside the Napa Valley wine industry. As president, Doug Shafer continues to oversee the daily operations of the winery and vineyards as well as sales and marketing. He maintains a hands-on approach, personally meeting as many winery guests as he can and working closely with his father and Elias to ensure both the quality of the wines and the future of Shafer Vineyards. Long-term, Doug is committed to preserving Shafer as a small family winery dedicated to the production of world-class wines from the estate vineyards.