Cal­i­for­nia Dreams

The Napa Val­ley has pro­duced an em­bar­rass­ment of riches in re­cent years, but the 2013 reds re­ally stand out, writes James Suck­ling

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

he napa val­ley is re­leas­ing some of the world’s most ex­cit­ing wines at the mo­ment. I have a slight pref­er­ence for 2013 over 2012. It’s hard to be­lieve the Napa Val­ley made bet­ter wines in 2013, but it did. The best 2013s show ter­rific form and ten­sion, giv­ing an im­pres­sive fresh­ness to their rich­ness and power. This char­ac­ter il­lus­trates a new clas­si­cism for the great wines of the re­gion.

“This is the vin­tage of my ca­reer,” says Ni­co­las Mor­let, the wine­maker at Peter Michael Win­ery. “The 2013 was the dream vin­tage for a wine­maker. It was when you have bal­ance and beauty in all your wines. The wines can be pow­er­ful and el­e­gant at the same time. They are very gas­tro­nomic. They have a nat­u­ral bal­ance in a neo­clas­sic style.”

In­deed, I tasted al­most 400 wines in the Napa Val­ley and I was in­cred­i­bly im­pressed with the bal­ance and har­mony of so many of them. Great ex­am­ples seem to be in abun­dance in 2013. I gave per­fect scores to no less than seven. See my tast­ing re­port, which in­cludes their names, in the pre­ced­ing pages.

All my 100-point wines showed great char­ac­ter and qual­ity that seemed al­most to tran­scend what or who made them. They ex­hib­ited per­fect qual­ity in ideal pro­por­tions like some of the great­est wines I have tasted in my 35 years as a wine critic. Their ter­rific qual­ity re­minded me of such clas­sics as the leg­endary 1982 Mou­ton Roth­schild and even the 1961 La­tour.

“I have never tasted any­thing like it,” said Tod Mos­tero, the wine­maker of the Domi­nus and Ulysses es­tates, when dis­cussing his per­fect 2013 Domi­nus. “It’s the mys­tery el­e­ment that blows my mind ... It’s be­yond def­i­ni­tion. It’s like pure spirit or light.” I have a feel­ing that some of the Napa Val­ley’s great reds of 2013 will be the same bench­marks in the fu­ture.

What I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate in so many of the out­stand­ing 2013 Napa reds is their cool, fresh char­ac­ter. They are rich and ripe but an un­der­ly­ing fresh­ness is al­ways there. Wine­mak­ers say the vin­tage had an ex­tremely even grow­ing sea­son, never too hot or cold. And there were no heat spikes in Au­gust or Septem­ber. The grapes ripened to per­fec­tion, with thick skins and small berries to as­sure plenty of tan­nins. Crop size was gen­er­ous.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that most wine­mak­ers said the tan­nin con­tent of the 2013s was about the same as the great 2012 vin­tage. Yet the 2012s show much more fruit and del­i­cacy than the 2013s. The 2012s are de­li­cious to drink now and will be through­out their life.

“Wine afi­ciona­dos will grav­i­tate to 2013 but more peo­ple will prob­a­bly pre­fer 2012,” said Peter Perry of Dana Es­tates. “If you have to drink a vin­tage young, then the 2012s are that. And don’t for­get the ex­cel­lent 2014.”

I agree with Peter’s eval­u­a­tion. The 2012s are so de­li­cious to drink now and they re­ally are crowd pleasers in ev­ery sense of the word. The few 2014s I have tasted from the bar­rel are also knock­outs. Yet the 2013 is the vin­tage of Napa Val­ley red that I want to buy, cel­lar and drink. So many ex­cit­ing bot­tles were made. Buy some.

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