When you taste a wine you love, you know it right away, whether you ignore your own instincts or not. Your body relaxes and your mind lights up, as if you’ve heard a beautiful song and you are trying harder to listen to it.
The Napa Valley Wine Academy was invited to a tasting of 2019, 2020 and 2021 wines during Premiere Napa Valley last month, and the team on the ground started to notice something interesting: the 2020s were standing out. Take a look at these tastes:
Belle Glos 2020 Pinot Noir, crushed floral and aromatic red fruits;
Bennett Lane’s 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon with an abundance of juicy red fruits;
Bougetz Cellars’ 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon showing off the Spring Mountain District’s aromatic blackfruits with fresh mountain brush intrigue;
Duckhorn Vineyards 2020 Merlot with a mix of black and red fruits full of depth, concentration and complexity as well as the Three Palms’ signature, silky texture;
Larkmead Vineyards 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon (which celebrates the winery’s 125th anniversary!) full of red and dark fruits, herbs and spice complexity;
Matthiasson 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon’s aromatic red and black fruits with a fresh, tangy deliciousness;
Paraduxx 2020 Red Table Wine which wraps fresh black fruits around a firm core of age-worthy tannins;
Pride Mountain Vineyards’ 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon over-delivering with deep black fruits and a hint of fresh red fruits, on a rich, smooth palate;
Whitehall Lane’s 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, which winemaker Jason Moulton calls a ‘historical vintage’; and
Inglenook’s 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon which highlights Rubicon’s complex weave of dark fruits and spice.
In almost every case, the grapes for these wines were picked before the 2020 Glass Fire. In one instance the grapes were being picked as the fires broke out, which had them safely in the cellar within a day.
And in all instances, even for those who ended up not making a 2020 vintage, winemakers noted again and again, the 2020 vintage was a beauty: the plump, ripe fruit was balanced by fresh acids and flavor development in the vineyard allowed for deep, complex aromas and flavors. There was pure excitement prior to the outbreak of fires. This would have been a vintage to go down in the quality hall of fame, had more producers been able to make their usual wines. The ones that did deserve our attentive palates.
The Napa Valley Wine Academy is eager to get its hands on some of the 2020 wines, and let its students taste-test this vintage, using their own palates as judge. I’m sure they will hear a song or two in the process.