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1985 vintage guide for California Merlot

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An outstanding vintage

Weather Conditions

After experiencing one of the earliest starts through an early budbreak, the season was relatively cool and ended by being one of the longest and best up to the time. The summer offered warm days, cool nights, and a cool August paved the way for a sunny September that brought the fruit to an even and incremental maturity rarely encountered in California. The Cabernets are as atypical as the vintage. The fruit maturity was achieved at relatively moderate sugar levels and the acidity was textbook perfect for balance. With Sonoma enjoying the same conditions as Napa, the vintage yielded an overwhelming number of successful Cabernets. Generally ripe and supple, the wines are well-proportioned and integrated with fine tannins. At the time this was the finest vintage since 74. With cellaring the best are displaying a refined fruitiness and elegance, but a number are maturing slowly. Silver Oaks’ Alexander Valley Cabernet led the strong Sonoma contingent and was drinking well at the turn of the century.

Best Appellations

The steady, moderately cool growing season and slight harvest time warming spell combined for a textbook perfect Merlot vintage. Fleshy, round, but with sufficient tannin and acidity for balance, the 85 Merlots convinced any doubters about Merlot in California.

Best Producers

Best Merlots were from Duckhorn, Cuvaison, St. Francis, Sterling, Matanzas, Shafer, Clos du Val, Clos du Bois Rombauer and Rutherford Hill. The Clos du Val aged into a real thing of beauty.

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