An excellent Cabernet vintage
This was the beginning of another prolonged drought period. With little rain and cool weather, the vines did not set a sizable crop to begin with. The crop was further reduced by heat waves in mid-summer. As the harvest approached, both berries and clusters were small. Harvesting was fast and furious. For those who were able to harvest their Cabernet rapidly, the flavors were concentrated, but the wines also showed sinewy tannins. The richer, better balanced wines were made in the cellars. Merlot went into the late season under some stress. However, the fruit ripened before the late September heat spells and the vintage turned out to be one of the best in the decade. Small berries and a small crop created big, plush, plummy Merlots.
Initially, it was hard to declare one region better than another in this otherwise widely appealing vintage. With short-term aging, the cooler regions–Stags Leap and Oakville–begin to rise above the crowd. After a decade, these regions separated themselves even further from the crowd. The same two cool regions that were leaders for Cabernet also asserted themselves for Merlot.
Among the stars one finds the usual core names such as Caymus, Phelps, Silver Oaks (both Napa and Alexander Valley), Dunn, Beringer Private Reserve, Spotteswoode, and Montelena. But with time, Shafer Hillside, Silverado Reserve, Forman, Robert Mondavi Reserve, Opus One, Dominus evolved to join the elite.