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Shafer Napa Valley Merlot Bottle

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2012 Merlot

Released AUGUST 29, 2014
Suggested California retail: $52.00

“[Shafer] has been making much-praised Merlot for many decades.
— Lettie Teague, The Wall St. Journal

This was a classic Napa Valley vintage filled with warm, sunny days and perfect, chilly nights from spring through early autumn. The consistency of heat and coolness created a model growing season in which we harvested fruit at ideal ripeness brimming with rich color and flavor.

Winemaker’s Notes
“From a superb vintage, this wine introduces itself with enticing perfumy aromas of cherries and briar fruit that fill not just the glass but the space around the glass. This Merlot shines with juicy, chewy flavors of cherry pie, blackberry, strawberry, minerality and soil – an elegant, mouth-filling wine whose lengthy finish will leave you wanting more.”  — Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez.


Merlot is a finicky grape – a bit too much rain, a touch of frost early in the season – will easily result in less than ideal fruit. Early on each season our vineyard team culls any weaker fruit leaving only the best-of-the-best on the vine, ensuring that the wine exhibits lush, ripe, mouthfilling flavors that are true to varietal character.

While this wine is officially designated with the Napa Valley appellation, its fruit is sourced from within just a three-mile radius in the Valley's cooler southern end. Half of our fruit for our Merlot comes from a hilly Shafer-owned vineyard we've informally dubbed, "School Bus," located about a quarter mile due south of Stags Leap District. The remainder is cultivated within Stags Leap District by growers we've worked with closely for years.

Related Links

2012 Merlot Fact Sheet
2015 Current Releases
Shafer Brochure

Finding Our Wines
Robert M. Parker Jr.’s The Wine Advocate,
October 2014

2012 Merlot – Reviews

“… another sensational offering from Doug and John Shafer and their longtime assistant, Elias Fernandez. The sweetness of the tannins, the sucrosity of the fruit and the wine’s richness and expansiveness suggest another great vintage in Napa Valley. This is a sensational Merlot”
— Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate

“A Cab lover’s Merlot, this wine is massively constructed, a behemoth of tobacco-laced blue fruit and smoke, nearing pie-like proportion. With time and/or decanting, it’ll reveal pretty violet on the nose, and take on a sultry juiciness to overcome its weight. Lay this baby down through 2022.”
— Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast

“Sleek and supple, this is exactly the style of Merlot that made the wine so popular. Floral red currant and cinnamon spice aromas lead to rich, ripe flavors of black cherry and toasty oak, with a hint of earth. Drink now through 2020.”
— Tim Fish, Wine Spectator

“… another very good offering from this long standing producer. It opens with a very inviting blueberry bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced and smooth. The flavor profile is a tasty blueberry with notes of black plum. I also detected hints of oak, black licorice and clove mixed in as well. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins are well controlled and drift away nicely.”

“Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and black plum and new oak. In the mouth, bright, juicy, and faintly sweet plum, cherry, and cola flavors have a tannin backbone to them that adds a little black-tea earthiness to the bright, luscious fruit. Delicious …”
—, Alder Yarrow

“The 2012 Merlot jumps from the glass with brilliant red cherries, plums, flowers, spices and mint. With time in the glass the flavors blossom beautifully as the wine gains texture and resonance. Merlot still suffers from a less than stellar reputation in some circles, which is unfortunate. Few do it better than Shafer when it comes to capturing the fruit-driven exuberance of Merlot. Drink this juicy, resonant red over the next few years.”
—, Antonio Galloni

“… attractive, deep, intense, spice, dark cherry fruit aroma with hints of cassis and new French oak; full body; big, rich, extracted, textured, cedary, dark berry fruit flavors with hints of cocoa and vanilla bean … very highly recommended.”
California Grapevine

“I’ve long been a fan of this aristocratic red wine from Napa. This wine comes off as beautifully polished, structured and elegant, and is a blend of 17% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Cabernet Franc. Aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, fig, smoke and leather, it’s a classic. Pair with hanger steak.”
— Natalie MacLean,

Click here to read reviews on

Three Decades of Merlot

The origin story of our decades-long love affair with this wine, in which Doug Shafer reveals how he talked his dad, John Shafer, into launching Merlot production back in the early 1980s.