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California 2010 Vintage Guide

California 2010 vintage


A cool and challenging growing season issued in vibrant, juicy, concentrated wines which marry considerable early appeal with structure for the cellar; Cabernet Sauvignon excelled.

Weather Conditions

A cool, wet spring resulted in late flowering and gave a taste of the growing season to come, for the cool temperatures persisted into summer: July in Napa was the second-coldest in 50 years. Then, in late August, temperatures soared, breaking records for Northern California, as many growers lost fruit to sunburn, in some cases as much as twenty per cent. Torrential rains in mid-October and an early frost around Thanksgiving completed a complicated picture. For many winemakers and vineyard managers, habituated to California’s balmy and consistent climate, the year was a rude awakening to the kind of conditions that Northern European winemakers encounter as a matter of routine.

California, Ridge Vineyards Geyserville

California, Ridge Vineyards Geyserville

The Wines

Despite such an irregular growing season, however, 2010 produced an excellent set of wines. Higher acidities and fresh fruit tones, a consequence of the unusually cool season, make the vintage especially compelling—and drinkable. Those qualities make this vintage a favourite with many Napa winemakers. While the wines’ pure fruit renders them appealingly drinkable already, their refined tannins and bright acidity should make 2010 the most potentially long-lived California Cabernet Sauvignon vintage since 2001.

The cool conditions of the 2010 vintage preserved rare freshness and balance in California Cabernet Sauvignon, and this variety is the strength of 2010, above all in the Napa Valley. Sonoma suffered more from the cool, humid spring and early summer, so its crop of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel is variable, with Chardonnay probably the most consistently successful variety. That’s true of the Central Coast too, and as ever Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were most vulnerable to the fickle weather.

California, Sonoma County Kutch Vineyards harvest

Sonoma County, Kutch Wines harvest

Best Producers

Cabernet Sauvignon: Philip Togni, Spottswoode Estate, Dominus Estate, Dunn Vineyards, Heitz Wine Cellars, Schrader Cellars, Bond, MacDonald, Ridge Vineyards, Corison, Diamond Creek

Chardonnay: Stony Hill, Varner, Kongsgaard, Rhys, Ramey

Pinot Noir: Rhys, Rivers-Marie, Calera, Radio-Coteau, Dehlinger, Peter Michael

Rhône varieties: Rhys, Arnot-Roberts, Anthill Farms, Edmunds St. John, Copain, Saxum, Peay

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