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1995 vintage guide for California Merlot

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A variable vintage. Some wines were tannic and astringent

Weather Conditions

After such, smooth-sailing and uneventful 1994 vintage, this was a year of extremes ranging from two severe winter floods, heavy spring rains, and even a hailstorm in June. The season started late and moved along slowly. The Cabernets berries and bunches were small and problems with mildew caused by the moisture were minor. When warmth finally arrived in late June, the grapes still were maturing slowly. The summer and fall weeks returned to being mild. A warming trend in late September came along just in time to bring the fruit to ripeness levels ranging from good to ideal. This was the first vintage in which tannin management cellar practices were widespread and manifested themselves in Cabernets that offered soft tannins that were plush in texture and relatively smooth. Even the rougher mountain-grown Merlots came across with richer, smoother tannins.

Best Appellations

This was a classic vintage in which the best producers within each region captured genuine regional character in their Cabernets. Both on the basis of the sheer number of two star or higher successes and plain old quality, the nod goes to Napa Valley’s Rutherford-Oakville District and Howell Mountain. Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley Cabernet displayed the best of that region. In this vintage the tiny Carmel Valley in Monterey begins to serve notice its climate is similar to Napa Valley’s and its Cabernets deserve equal attention.

Best Producers

Whitehall Lane (Reserve), Pine Ridge (Carneros), Cafaro, Fisher, Arrowood, Matanzas Creek, Forman, Paradigm, Merryvale, and Pride Mountain. Not far behind one finds
Coppola, Lewis Cellars, Benziger, Paradigm, Pahlmeyer, St. Clement, Cafaro, St Francis and Gary Farrell.

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