The American embassy in London hosted a tasting of Napa Cabernets organised by the Napa Valley Vintners. The 14 wineries invited to pour their wines brought two vintages ten years apart. There was no programme behind the event, but it did give tasters an opportunity to monitor the evolution of wines from top producers. In most cases the young vintage was either 2015 or 2016, and the older 2005 or 2006.
These were all good vintages so quality was, or should have been, consistently high. Indeed, the wines ranged from very good to superb, as one would hope for given that they ranged in price from around £100 to £500. Harlan Estate was probably the most expensive wine, so I asked its manager, Don Weaver, what has changed between 2005 and 2015. He didn’t hesitate: ‘There is vintage variation, of course. Apart from that the only significant change has been that the vines are older and more balanced. But Harlan remains the same place, with the same team in the vineyard and winery.’
That would be true of many properties here. True, in California it is common practice to buy grapes from contracted growers so sources can vary from year to year. But the majority of wines here came from single vineyards, such as Tor’s To Kalon or Heitz’s Martha’s Vineyard.