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2003 vintage guide for California Merlot


Rich, concentrated wine with deep cherry flavours and fine, ripe, round tannins

Weather Conditions

A mild winter with normal rainfall in the north coast. Spring was mild and frost-free. Bud break was early, and April turned cool and overcast with lots of rain. This wet, damp spring was followed by occasional warm spells in the early summer which further aggravated bloom and set in Napa and Sonoma. Mid-may temperatures warmed up and the vines picked up the pace. June was unusually cool until heat arrived in the last week. July was hot and sultry in Napa Valley which caused some berry shatter. August had clear skies, little morning fog, but most growers were worried about mildew and worked the canopies to improve air circulation. Paso Robles had thunderstorms, but no damage and went on to enjoy warm weather in September. In the north coast regions, there was a two day heat-spike in mid-September. Throughout the major regions, extremely warm weather in mid September sent sugars increasing rapidly but flavour development lagged. Cool weather returned to restore balance and it continued through mid-October when the Cabernet harvest was in full swing. Despite a bumpy ride, this was a late maturing year rewarding those who waited. Overall crop size was down considerably. The Cabernet and Merlots were unusually dark in colour. Again, somewhat mixed overall.

Best Appellations

Carneros, Stag’s Leap, Alexander Valley, San Diego County, Mendocino County, and Napa Valley

Best Producers

Duckhorn, Pine Ridge, Murphy Goode, Clos du Val, Sterling, Waterstone, Pahlmeyer

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