An excellent vintage with deep, concentrated, well-structured wines, especially in Napa Valley. A dry winter and a warm, dry spring got things off to a quick start, but in April a bad frost (the worst in 30 years) hit Northern California hard. Fruit set was damaged and yields were clipped from the get-go.
The dry winter conditions that continued into March and April, combined with a significant heat spike in March, got the vines moving early. But the risk of frost damage hovered, and indeed a cold spell lasting up to 10 days resulted in the worst frost in 20 years, with temperatures regularly lower than 30°F in early April. In the Central Valley, a few overnight temperatures went into the mid 20°s. The result was crop size reduced by 20% in some varieties.
The cold snap was followed by the hottest May on record, and it continued with what proved to be the third hottest June on record. This kept the harvest looking like it would be on the early side, and the vines were about two to three weeks ahead of schedule.
But the frost took its toll, and even with significant new planting coming online the harvest would still end up short. Yet the silver lining was that the small crop would reach superb levels of concentration and the wines would show in their depth, richness, and structure. After such a crazy start, growers were relieved when July, August, and September turned out to be pretty uneventful, and conditions remained favorable through the end of harvest. Growers had the luxury of waiting to pick at optimum ripeness, and the result was a solid but small crop of superb wines.
Late bud break, 10 days earlier than normal
The worst frost in 30 years
Set heat records
Cool and foggy weather
Warm and dry
One of the star estates of the Napa Valley, Araujo owes much of its success to the Eisele Vineyard, located just outside Calistoga. This spot first came to prominence in the 1970s and '80s as the source of the blockbuster Cabernet Sauvignon made by Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Before Phelps, however, Milton and Barbara Eisele cultivated the 38-acre parcel, discovering its potential and leaving their name as a legacy. Since 1990, Bart and Daphne Araujo have carried on the tradition of making monster Cabernets, adding Syrah into the mix as well. Their flagship bottling is dense, powerful and rich, typically with soil-inflected notes of plum, mocha, tobacco and smoke, and very suave tannins. Three-quarters of the Eisele vineyard are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, to accommodate grape needs, while the remainder is divided between Bordeaux varietals, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, and of course, Syrah.