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1980 vintage guide for California Cabernet Sauvignon

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An under-rated vintage which produced some good North Coast Cabernet

Weather Conditions

A wet winter gave way to a cool early season. The bloom period was smooth but it was unusually long lasting over a month. Then the season turned unusually cool and foggy with everyone praying for a warm spell. The long awaited, badly needed heat spell arrived in September to allow the fruit to develop high sugar content while holding decent to good acidity. Then as the harvest unfolded the weather turned hot and nasty. The Cabernet clusters were a mix of ripe, green, and over-ripe berries. Initial great expectations was never fulfilled by Napa Cabernets. This was a vintage with widespread “stuck” fermentations and high levels of hydrogen sulfide. However, many winemakers overcame these problems and the best reds were ripe and balanced and their varietal character only diminished by high alcohol. Despite being awkward in their youth, a few acquired some grace with aging. Grace Family Vineyards, one of the first cult Cabernet producers, cam up with a spectacular wine this year.

Best Appellations

There was no one region that clearly stood out above the others in this vintage. Napa Valley’s warmer regions–Rutherford and St. Helena–fared slightly better than more southerly regions. Vineyards along benchlands and mountainside followed a hit or miss pattern.

Best Producers

Opus One, Diamond Creek (Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Grgich Hills, Sterling Reserve, St. Clement, Dunn, Phelps (Insignia), Freeware Abbey Bosche, Duckhorn, Mondavi Reserve, Heitz (Martha’s Vineyard), Dry Creek Vineyards, Mount Eden Vineyards, and Flora Springs.

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