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Karen MacNeil on Napa Valley's 2019 vintage

Dramatic events are nothing new in Napa Valley, and the three most recent vintages in the Valley are a sure testament to that idea. Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 vintage.

Napa Valley, like so many parts of California, is in a long period of drought. So when rain came in the early spring of 2019, just as the vines were starting to emerge from dormancy, it was huge good luck. As vintner Beth Novak put it, the rains gave the vines, “the spring drink they savored and thrived on.” Then it was on to a classic Napa Valley summer—bright light and beautiful sunshine.

As the 2019 summer approached, the days when it got quite warm. But the valley benefited-- as it always does-- from the fantastic reality of diurnal temperature fluctuation. Thanks to the extremely cold Pacific Ocean, cold air fills the valley each night, lowering the temperature by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and leaving the valley full of cooling fog every morning.

Still, lots of summer sun, low humidity and windy conditions moved the grapes steadily toward ripeness. Said Philippe Melka, consultant to many estates throughout the valley and co-owner of Melka Estates, “Overall, the wines have strong dark colors, with a riper fruit profile than 2018. The 2019s are basically a more classic Napa style. The lower acidity should help their approachability at an early age.”

Indeed, the fall in 2019 was like a long slow heartbeat, finishing with grapes that were quite ripe but not fig-jam-ripe. As winemaker Cathy Corison summed it up, “The 2019 growing season was blissfully unremarkable with a long, cool finish resulting in firm structure wrapped in juicy, complex fruit.”

It all added up to very expressive wines. The 2019s I have tasted have been plush, textural wines packed with flavor. Like all complex wines, they are just starting to reveal their layers and depth. 2019 was what I call a Can’t-Go-Wrong vintage.