Shafer's 2013 Merlot is wonderfully fresh, brisk and nuanced. Sweet red cherry, plum, mint and expressive spice notes are all pushed forward. This open-knit, fleshy Merlot should drink well for the next handful of years. (AG) Shafer is one of Napa Valley's best oiled machines. Year after year the wines deliver the goods in a rich, sumptuous style that defines the very essence of contemporary Napa Valley at its very best. The 2012s are terrific, but Shafer really shines in 2013 and 2014, two vintages in which the wines have a bit more energy and delineation than 2012, a year with mostly mid-weight wines built on forward fruit, but with less varietal character. Winemaker Elias Fernandez describes 2013 as a year with a generous crop. Unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, Fernandez opted for shorter macerations in 2014, a year with smaller berries and wines that extracted more quickly than in 2013, when the wines spent longer on the skins. Quite frankly, it's hard to go wrong with any of these wines, including the just-released 2011 Hillside Select, which is gorgeous.