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1979 vintage guide for California Cabernet Sauvignon

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An uneven vintage of patchy quality

Weather Conditions

An under-appreciated vintage in which a cool season that began with high expectations ran up against heat spikes in July and rain showers around the harvest. Quality varied widely, with some of the reds picked before the rains, and the rest harvested well into October. Overall, the vintage yielded Cabernets that were slightly tight and austere but long-lived. Some wines turned out flavorful and balanced, and many of the Reserve bottlings have aged surprisingly long and well. Beringer Private Reserve decided not to bottle a Private Reserve. Duckhorn’s second successful Merlot in a rich, serious style starts people thinking about Merlot as a stand-alone varietal.

Best Appellations

Napa Valley in the mid-to southern regions fared better than vineyards in St. Helena and north through Calistoga. Stags Leap District was one irrefutable bright spots. The Cabernets from Sonoma Valley were uneven, and the heat and the harvest rains took its toll on Alexander Valley reds.

Best Producers

Caymus, Heitz, Phelps, Stag’s Leap, Montelena, Shafer, and Clos du Val. Caymus’ Special Selection was the superstar from the get-go. But others have aged extremely well, shedding their tannin and developing great aged character to rival Caymus. Among the present contenders are Stag’s Leap Cask 23, Chateau Montelena, Shafer Hillside Select and Opus One.

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