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1999 vintage guide for California Merlot

drink soon

The harvest was saved by the onset of an Indian summer

Weather Conditions

The final vintage of the century did not go out quietly. After a winter of normal rainfall and somewhat lower than normal temperatures, budbreak was a little late. So too were bloom and set, and the end result was fewer and smaller clusters. After a wet spring, the long, cool and occasionally depressing weather was, like many things, blamed on the second year of La Nina. By the end of August the cool conditions caused concerns about low maturity and high acidities. But the last two weeks in September appeared like Superman to save the day… and the vintage. In response to the warmth, all varieties tended to ripen at once, with Chardonnay being crushed when growers wanted to pick their Merlot and Cabernet. Since the crop was small, fermentation space was available. This vintage because of the long and genuinely beneficial growing season, is undoubtedly better than 1998 for both Cabernet and Merlot.

Best Appellations

Again, it is far too early to call. Both Stag Leap District and Howell Mountain see certain to succeed. Cabernets from the Oakville-Rutherford benchlands, however, have been showing well in the youthful stages.

Best Producers

Duckhorn (Napa Valley, Howell Mountain), Geyser Peak Reserve, Sterling, Matanzas Creek, Cafaro Cellars, Arrowood, Benziger,Merryvale, St. Clement, St Francis, and Chateau St. Jean.

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