A Dream Vintage
Source: James Laube, Wine Spectator
The good news: 2014 was a dream vintage, with quality along the lines of 2012 and 2013.
The bad news: Not much to complain about, though drought conditions and small crop size did prove to be minor irritants.
Picking started: Everything was ready to go in early- to mid-August, even Cabernet Sauvignon, which usually ripens much later.
Promising grapes: Cabernet took center stage, but all grapes—including Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel—and regions fared well, under ideal weather conditions.
Analysis: Napa Valley's harvest was unusually early this year, not surprising given the state’s ongoing drought, which was so extreme that the cover crops in many vineyards never took hold. Substantial rain in late February and early March relieved most of the stress and set up the vines for a vigorous start. "Early" was the key word all season, from budbreak to veraison to harvest. Thankfully, the hotter months proved milder than most expected.
Summer weather was perfect for the grapes, said Elias Fernandez of Shafer Vineyards. “We didn’t see any extremes or surprises—no 100° F days, no humidity trouble to speak of, no sunburn. We enjoyed a lot of days in the 90s, with somewhat warmer nights than the year previous, more often in the 60s than the 50s. Everything just rocked along beautifully.”
Andy Erickson of Favia recalled this being the earliest harvest on record for him, with picking beginning in St. Helena Aug. 19. “But the quality of the fruit was outstanding," he said. "Dark color, intense aromatics, great fruit character. I told my team to forget the calendar and to get into sampling and tasting vineyards in earnest. Overall, I’d say we were two to three weeks earlier than last year for most vineyards, and with above-average yields.”
Quality seems to be excellent, according to Erickson and other vintners. “I’d say the vintage is somewhere between 2012 and 2013, with 2013 being the darkest, most powerful wines I’ve seen in Napa, and 2012 not far behind, but with softer, more luscious tannins,” said Erickson. “2014 at this point seems to be darker and a bit more concentrated than 2012s, but perhaps with some earlier appeal than the tightly packed wines of 2013.”
Robert Parker, Wine Advocate https://www.robertparker.com/resources/vintage-chart