Simple wines lacking in vigour
Was ever a vintage more wrongly accused? After a great spring and almost perfect weather in July and August, it began to rain in California a few days before winemakers were preparing to harvest. That first September rain spell was followed by another a week later to delay the harvest. While many were unprepared to wait it out, some did and were rewarded with congenial weather in October. Again as in the previous vintage, the rains presented fewer problems in Sonoma than Napa, but the media was out proclaiming this as “the vintage from hell” before half of the crop was in the cellars. For Merlot growers, the rains sparked concerns about unwanted Botrytis and in some low-lying, poorly drained sites that proved to be real. Otherwise, the quality of Merlot had fallen under the “vintage from hell” generalization, but was average.
Once again because they received slightly less harvest rain, Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley were more successful than most others. In Napa, the dry-farmed hillside vineyards also Napa Mountain appellations (Mt. Veeder, Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain) managed to produce balanced wines but they often were hard and tannic.
This was a tough year for Merlot, but a few of the growing number of producers managed tocome up with above average quality. The most memorable Merlots were those from Matanzas Creek, Shafer, and St. Francis.