Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Napa valley 2008 Chardonnay, $38.24-$44.99, 94 points, is not as elegant a wine as the Far Niente, but what it lacks in elegance it makes up for in power. It is mercurial, and densely golden, the aroma is honey and flowers, peaches and pome with layers of fruit like pineapple; it is a thing of beauty!
What has happened to the Zin-man in me? 15% off of Chardonnay and my quest to explore the wonderful world of grapes, that's what; this Chardonnay has complexity, and is an excellent example of not only the grape, but the sheer geography and demography of the winery and its people, not to mention the compliment to the food, friends, and places shared with such a wine.
Controversies and commentary: Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay seems to be one of those wines reviewers just can't agree on; I've seen this wine rated 91 points, but that is a guide, as discussed by Steve Heimoff (The original link is no-longer available): "The 100 point system is a “guide”, it’s not engraved on a tablet. . ." There are some who've scored this wine 96 points and said why: "all the flavors in the aroma and then some." I found that true, but others had over-whelming "butterscotch", which to me, was balanced nicely with the overall fruit and alcohol (14.8%). This is a big Chardonnay, but one of the few big Chardonnays that I liked, rather loved.
I want to invite you to visit Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch web-site for some very interesting information.
There you will note "Sustainable Agriculture", and that hasn't seemed to harm their quality (Great!), but too often "Organic" has ostensibly been used to lure "us" into purchasing wine for that reason and not the quality of the wine itself. Here http://nhwineman.blogspot.com/2010/11/tale-of-two-zins.html I found myself in conflict with "good" wine and/or organic viticulture (The two can be the same). The same tension exists when I go to the grocery market and have to choose price, availability, sale-date, perceived health benefits, and aesthetics; sometimes I purchase organic foods (usually tubers), but I'm not chained to them, and if my choice is between shriveled-up organic tomatoes or plump-red hothouse miracle-grown tomatoes, I'll pick the later every time.
I doubt this is a simple issue, but for me, if the wine doesn't taste good, then I don't care how it's grown, or what it's called, I'll not buy it or recommend it. So, unlike the great wines from Shafer or Bonterra (Good earth) wines, Organic, Bio-dynamic, Sustainable, or Earth-Friendly can just be a marketing pitch, one which has burnt me, and does a disservice to the concept.