Here is a brief summary of the 2010-2014 growing seasons in Napa Valley:
Echoing the quality and depth of flavor found in the 2012 and 2013 vintages, the 2014 vintage resulted in wines of intense aromatics and concentration. Heavy rains in February and March helped alleviate one of the driest winters on record in California, providing much-needed water to the vines as they were about to begin bud break. The well-timed spring rains were followed by a long, warm growing season that produced abundant yields of small, flavorful berries. According to renowned winemaker Andy Erickson of Favia, "the quality of the fruit was outstanding" in 2014. "I'd say the vintage is somewhere between 2012 and 2013, with 2013 being the darkest, most powerful wines... and 2012 not far behind, but with softer, more luscious tannins," said Erickson. "2014... is darker and a bit more concentrated than 2012s, but with some earlier appeal than the tightly packed wines of 2013."
Rivaling the pristine quality witnessed in the 2012 vintage, Napa’s 2013 growing season and harvest have been praised as another exceptional year. Growing conditions were optimal with a long, sunny summer and just a small heat spike at the end of June and a light rain in September, neither of which had discernible impact on the grapes. Conditions were exceptional for all grapes, but particularly for Napa Valley’s legendary Cabernet Sauvignon. The balancing act in 2013 lay in trying to achieve optimal ripeness whilst managing increasing levels of sugar. This tension is very different from 2012, and early expectations are that the 2013 wines will be bigger and more concentrated than the 2012 vintage. Regarding the 2013 vintage, Thomas Rivers Brown, one of America’s most talented winemakers, proclaims, “I can honestly say it was the best raw material I have ever seen. Given how cooperative the weather was you could basically achieve anything you wanted from the grapes this year.”
"Classic" and "perfect" are just two accolades being bestowed upon the 2012 growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw a mild, frost free spring, a long summer of warm days and cool nights, followed by a cool period right at the end of September, allowing flavor development without sugar accumulation. Leading grape-grower Andy Beckstoffer, with 43 Napa Valley harvests under his belt, has called the 2012 growing season “maybe the best ever”, producing an abundance of exceptional quality fruit. Many are already comparing 2012 to the glorious 1997 vintage. Robert Parker recently opined that the 2012 wines are "exactly what we have come to expect from top years in Napa Valley - exuberant and boisterous, filled with oodles of ripe fruit, exceptional purity and fleshy, succulent, mouthfilling, crowd-pleasing personalities of considerable character and richness. The low acidity, sweet tannins and high, but not excessive, alcohols have resulted in a great vintage that appears to be a no-brainer when it comes to consumers interest."
This was one of the most difficult growing seasons on record. The year was typified by a cold, wet spring and a mild summer. The harvest dragged on into November and was bedeviled by rain. The adverse weather hammered production, yielding the smallest crop in history. Nevertheless, wineries with premium sites, masterful teams and an unwavering commitment to excellence were able to respond to the extreme conditions, to produce tiny quantities of superb wines.
After three years of drought, the early part of the 2010 growing season saw unusually cool, wet conditions. Grape-growers responded by pulling leaves and thinning crops in order to expose core fruit to the sun, only to be hit by a late August burst of heat, leading to major sunburn and a massive loss of fruit. Yields were down by as much as 50% on 2009 and the wines have a lower alcohol concentration than usual, reminiscent of Bordeaux. Despite the challenging conditions, 2010 is proving to be a revelation. Here’s what Robert Parker has said: “The 2010s are magnificent, viscerally thrilling wines loaded with character and personality. This is the type of vintage that is often overlooked upon release, but that consumers regret not purchasing more deeply when the wines start showing their full potential 4-5 years later”.