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2001 vintage guide for California Merlot


Wines have a deep, intense colour with pronounced stone-fruit character.

Weather Conditions

After late frosts and an unseasonably hot spring, the weather moderated, leading to an early harvest for many grapes and long hang times for others. In the Napa Valley, yields and production were down 5-15% but perfect-looking grapes promised superb wines. Hillside red vineyards ripened before those on the valley floor, which stalled, letting flavours develop while sugar levels stayed static or even dropped.

Bud break was a week to 10 days early in March, which left vines vulnerable to late frosts. Sure enough, one of the most severe frosts in 25 years hit in April, decimating even hillside and Carneros vines usually impervious to frost. Then the hottest May in history caused grapes that didn’t develop. But perfect weather followed, with cool nights and warm, not excessively hot, days.

Harvest in Sonoma County began in mid-late August and was mostly wrapped up by mid October. An unexpected storm hit in late September, dumping as much as an inch of rain in some places, though the late rain didn’t create much bunch rot or affect the harvest. It was followed by hot spike in October.

Best Appellations

A very good year in Napa Valley. The cool weather late in the season allowed Merlot fruit to develop slowly, resulting in darkly pigmented fruit with intense stone-fruit character. The vintage in Alexander Valley is average to above average, with low yields. In Sonoma County, quality is very good to excellent.

Best Producers

Whitehall Lane, Vine Cliff

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