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1984 vintage guide for California Merlot

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The first of a trio of very good years, this was the best vintage for red wines since 1978

Weather Conditions

This was one of those rare too good to be true vintages that was big in size and ranged from good to excellent in quality. The harvest was early due to a hot spell that kicked it off and a long period warm weather followed to keep harvesters busy. The Cabernets responded by offering generous highly concentrated flavours, and high tannin levels. Even by California standards, the wines were huge, powerful and ultra-ripe. Even the best were rich in tannin but were balanced well enough to age for two decades. Merlot ripened quickly in Napa and Sonoma and the harvest was finished by mid-September. The vintage tended toward over-ripeness and high, sometimes hard tannins. Only a few managed to produce balanced wines, and all but a few failed to last a decade.

Best Appellations

An excellent vintage for all regions, but this was the one that placed Rutherford and Oakville squarely in the spotlight. Stags Leap District also emerged this year to solidify its reputation for sleek, stylish Cabernets and Merlots.

Best Producers

Matanzas Creek, Sterling, Clos du Bois, Rutherford Hill, Duckhorn, Shafer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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