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1988 vintage guide for California Merlot

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A short vintage of uneven quality

Weather Conditions

Again, rainfall was about half of normal and the weather was dry and warm through May. The set was small. Then in mid-July the course changed as a cool weather pattern set in. From then on the growing season stretched out summer well into late September. With grapes hanging late into the season, some winemakers elected to pick at relatively low sugars. Others waited and were rewarded with heavy rains in October. As a result, this vintage has multiple personalities, ranging from light, fruity and elegant to heavy, dull, and diluted. Faced with the drought and warm weather, Merlot vines experienced a poor berry set with widespread shatter. As the dry season unfolded, the vines went on to ripen a small crop under warmer than desirable conditions.

Best Appellations

In this year Napa Valley received significant rain, but the Sonoma Valley and other regions within Sonoma County received far less during the harvest. As a result, the best Cabernets originated in Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley where Silver Oak, Jordan Vineyards, Simi, and Clos du Bois (Marlstone) were counted among the vintage’s best.

Best Producers

The perennial leaders, Duckhorn and Matanzas Creek sorted out the best lots from the worst to maintain top spot. Arrowood, Sinskey, Clos du Bois, and Cafaro rivaled the top two this year. However, even the best did not hold up well once passed their 78th birthday.

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