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