The 2009 vintage in California had a mix of weather conditions that kept growers busy all year long, but in the end resulted in an average-sized crop of very good wines. Ripe, rich, and full, rounder and more supple in their tannins than the 2008 and a notch under 2007 — but the best are excellent.
A slow start to the year was mitigated by good conditions through the summer; a couple of hot spells in August and September allowed the grapes to catch up.
The harvest started just ahead of normal, and things looked great until the 13th of October, when almost 4 inches of rain fell in a day. Fortunately, the rain was predicted well in advance, and many growers accelerated picking and were able to bring in much of the crop before the rain, especially Pinot Noir and other earlier-ripening grapes. The weather after the rain would be critical, as the risk of rot and dilution of flavors became a major concern for grapes not brought in before the rain. In most regions the weather improved and dried up the vineyards, extending hang-time into late October, and the majority of growers reported post-rain fruit coming in healthy and in good shape.
More than 13 inches of rain falls, enough to replenish depleted aquifers but not to undo the larger effects of the ongoing drought
Bud break during mid-month
Flowering during mid-month
Harvest for Sauvignon Blanc begins during first week, Merlot and Chardonnay during third week, Cabernet at month’s end
Harvest winds down towards month’s end; a total of 5.5 inches of rain falls throughout
Veraison early in the month
Almost 4 inches of rain falls; many accelerated harvest to get fruit in before the rain. Harvest pauses to wait for grapes to rebalance and dry out
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.