California 2014 vintage at a glance

Hold

An early harvest in the California 2014 vintage produced a below-average crop of charming, supple and dark-fruited wines with refined tannins and juicy acidity; the best Pinot Noir vintage for over a decade.

In depth: Weather conditions

2014 will be remembered as the year a powerful earthquake rocked Napa Valley in late August. It was also the second in a series of drought vintages, making for an accelerated growing season, which began with early flowering after a mild winter and culminated in an exceptionally early harvest. As in 2013, later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon were picked hard on the heels of earlier ripening varieties, placing wineries under logistical pressures. The summer of 2014 was cooler than 2013, and largely uninterrupted by the heat spikes. Thanks to those cool conditions, the wines have retained fresh fruit and bright acidities.

California, Sonoma County Kutch Wines grapes barrel

Sonoma County, Kutch Wines grapes barrel

The wines

The real success story in 2014 was Pinot Noir, whether in Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Barbara or the Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines are deep, supple and site-expressive, structured around ripe tannins and bright acidity. Indeed, for Pinot Noir this is a five-star vintage, potentially the best since 1994—though only time will reveal its true stature. Chardonnay also excelled in the same appellations, producing wines similar in style to the 2013s but if anything more intense and nervy.

Cabernet Sauvignon also produced a strong set of wines across the state, both in its Napa Valley heartlands and in Sonoma and the Santa Cruz Mountains. In general the 2014 Cabernets have supple, dark fruit, without the formidable concentration of the 2013s, but with more depth and energy than the often rather diffuse 2012s: these are drinkable, charming wines, and though the 2010 vintage was very different, it may be 2014’s closest recent stylistic analogue. Yields were below average. Rhône varieties were more variable, with Paso Robles wineries in particular suffering in the drought; Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara fared rather better.

California, Santa Barbara County Star Lane Vineyard

Santa Barbara County, Star Lane Vineyard

Best producers of California 2014 vintage wines

Cabernet Sauvignon: Ridge Vineyards, MacDonald, Corison, Philip Togni, Dominus Estate, Dunn Vineyards, Screaming Eagle, Mount Eden

Chardonnay: Sandhi, Ridge Vineyards, Rhys, Varner, Rivers-Marie, Failla

Pinot Noir: Rivers-Marie, Rhys, Domaine de la Côte, Dehlinger, Mount Eden, Arnot-Roberts, Radio-Coteau, Joseph Swan

Rhône varieties: Arnot-Roberts, Failla, Piedrassi, Rhys, Anthill Farms, Radio-Coteau, Peay