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1983 vintage guide for California Merlot

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An unexpectedly good vintage for Merlot

Weather Conditions

After beginning with normal weather through June, the year turned mean as heat spikes were frequent and rains hampered the harvest. Napa Valley enjoyed moderate weather, but Sonoma was hit harder by harvest rains causing diluted, out of balance Cabernets. Carmenet was a lone exception. Both Dunn and Forman remain among the best from Napa, indicating the low yielding, dry farmed mountain sites fared best of all. Even the successes were unusually tannic. With the majority of vineyards harvested before the pesty rains, Merlot offered opulent fruit and supple texture. Merlot was the success story of this vintage.

Best Appellations

Again Napa’s high elevation sites such as Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and Diamond Mountain yielded Cabernets with fine concentration and reasonably good balance. Parts of Alexander Valley proved too warm and most Cabernets were over ripe and overly tannic. The Santa Cruz region also suffered from late heat waves. Ridge de-classified its Monte Bello Cabernet.

Best Producers

For Cabernets, Dunn, Copalite, and Forman were exceptions, and Grgich Hills, a notoriously slow starter turned out to be one of the best. Other noteworthy Cabernets are Shafer, Carmenet, Silver Oak, Pahlmeyer, Spotteswoode, Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, Hanna, Iron Horse and St. Clement.
The outstanding Merlots were made by Duckhorn, Matanzas Creek, Rombauer, Sterling, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, and Rutherford Hill. In early 2000, the Rombauer and Sterling were still in good shape but the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar Merlot was complex, gorgeous, velvety and mouth- filling.

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