Napa’s 1999 was a slow-paced, cool growing season with very few heat spikes, which allowed a long hang-time for flavors, sugars, and tannins to come into perfectly balanced ripeness. If growers picked too early, instead of waiting it out in the long, dry Indian summer condition for the grapes to slowly come to maturity, or failed to crop thin and balance fruit loads for the cooler conditions, the vines struggled to get to perfect physiological ripeness, leaving a little flavor on the table and imparting a hard edge to the tannins. The best wines — and there are many outstanding wines in this cool, compact yet powerful vintage — are structured, concentrated, and focused, with the tannins and depth to age for the long haul.
The spring was cool and lingering, followed by a mild summer with a significant hot spell in early July. The weather warmed up again in late September as the harvest was underway. There was very little rainfall from April through October, resulting in concentrated, small berries. The long, cool season kept acids bright and fresh, and there is something to the argument that this was a more “European” styled vintage in the best sense of the term.
Solid, compact, structured wines, with somewhat Bordeaux-like interplay between power, structure, fruit, acidity, and elegance — the best of which should age well for a decade or two at least.
Scattered showers and hail over Memorial Day Weekend (North Coast)
Heavy winds and coldest recorded temperatures to date
Lowest accumulated temperature for in a quarter century
About Havens Wine Cellars
Prior to selling his winery, Michael Havens made Merlot in a distinctly Bordeaux style, with a restrained sweetness and notes of lead pencil, minerals, game and tobacco leaf. He was also a pioneer of California Syrah in a distinctly northern Rhone style, typically showing notes of dark fruits, black pepper and gunflint. Alas, these sophisticated wines are now a thing of the past. In September 2009, Billington Imports, who purchased the winery in 2006, went under. All of Billington's assets, including Havens Wine Cellars, were auctioned off, but the brand continues to be made.