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Vintage 2019

Despite Extreme Weather, 2019 Is a “Perfect Storm” Vintage for Wine

The harvest was “near perfect” in Napa and Sonoma—and in some places in France, where lower quantities will make bottles even more sought-after. But not everyone is was left with a good taste in their mouths.

“This is turning out to be a near perfect harvest,” emailed Dan Petroski of Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga. “An excellent vintage that will make wines with great structure.” He wrapped up picking late last week after working 20-hour days. A warm, late summer, followed by a cooling trend and a touch of rain last week, created ideal conditions. Whites are already fermenting, and the cabernet harvest is underway up and down the valley, according to Napa Valley Vintners.

There will be plenty of grapes—probably too many—as both Sonoma and Napa face a grape glut.

Yet the danger of possible power cutoffs could affect how good the wines are. Because downed power lines were blamed for destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018, utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. cuts power when fire risk is high. That’s often the case at harvest time, when wineries need electricity to run crushers and temperature-controlled fermentation tanks. For those that lack generators or solar power, an extended outage can bring disaster.

Will Harlan and Cory Empting at Promontory compare it to 1990, feeling it has more flesh and power versus 2018, needing time to reveal itself – “an old soul” of a vintage. For Aita at Colgin, the wines have minerality and real expression of place. They are much more approachable than 2018 in their youth, yet have everything needed to go the distance.

The critics all agree that it’s another very good vintage, but are divided as to whether they prefer 2018 or 2019. For Vinous’s Antonio Galloni, the 2019s are “big, bold wines that show the extroverted side of Napa Valley”. He feels it doesn’t quite have the consistency of a truly great year, such as 2018, with that vintage also offering a little more freshness that he prefers.

Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (then still writing for the Wine Advocate) finds 2019 “classic, ripe, plush and beautifully expressive”, feeling – unlike Galloni – that it is more consistent than 2018, both in quality and volumes. For her, the 2018s are more structured with higher acidity, and may well age longer than the 2019s, however the 2019s have a generosity that is more typically Napa – and possibly more inviting.

For Jeb Dunnuck, it’s “another terrific year“ for Napa – “ripe, supple tannins, beautiful sweetness of fruit, and undeniably delicious”. He argues that it is clearly an excellent vintage, but doesn’t quite reach the levels of 2016 or 2013.


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