A very mixed vintage with some North Coast growers picking too early
The first of the El Nino vintages, this one was cold, rainy, atypical, and late. In November and December of 97 and January and February of 98, the total rainfall was 60 inches in Napa and more in western Sonoma. With weather reminiscent of Northern France, vines were entering veraison as late in the year as most veterans could recall. In such a late growing season there was considerable concern about mildew and botrytis over the overcast summer weeks. July gave up a few warm days, and August almost returned to normal warmth. There was no rain, so the panic buttons were not dragged out when the first two weeks of September proved to be mild and uneventful. The fact that the vines were carrying a light crop made everyone a little more patient. Finally, the first ten days of October brought the closest thing to a warm spell which winemakers hailed as a minor miracle. The Cabernet grapes ripened and the harvest was even paced and orderly. For Cabernet, the ripeness level were modest so alcohol levels are normal.
As this time, it is too early to call, although the vintage shares several things in common with 1993, a year in which standout regions were few in number.
Duckhorn (Napa Valley, Howell Mountain), Beringer, Swanson, Geyser Peak Reserve, Sterling, Matanzas Creek, Cafaro Cellars, Arrowood, Benziger, Merryvale, Paradigm, St. Clement, St Francis, and Chateau St. Jean.