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1992 vintage guide for California Merlot

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Early ripening Merlot produced some soft, lush wines

Weather Conditions

The year began with adequate rainfall and early budbreak. Cool weather early in the season delayed the bloom period which caused uneven set in both Cabernet and Merlot. Light rains in June proved to be harmless. After a warm period in mid-August that kicked the harvest off on a frenzied note, September turned out to be ideal for Cabernet. For Merlot the hot temperatures during late summer pushed fruit maturity, making this one of the earliest Merlot harvests in the North Coast since 1981. Otherwise, the pattern of cool nights and warm days prevailed throughout the Cabernet harvest in the North Coast. Most wines are intense in color and flavor with better balance and pHs than in 91. However, in Napa and other North Coast regions, the tannin levels were high. Overall the crop was slightly bigger than normal. Above-average quality, 1992 was often overlooked or downplayed because it followed two exceptional vintages.

Best Appellations

Napa’s Rutherford-Oakville region and mountain vineyards were impressive at the get-go because their wines were ripe, powerful and showy. With aging those that were overoaked fell by the wayside. But overall, the outstanding Cabernets and Merlots originated from Rutherford, and the west Rutherford benchlands. Also many long-lived Cabernets originated from Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain.

Best Producers

Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood, Benziger, Havens, Pine Ridge, Stag’s Leap

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