One of the the things that California winemakers rarely have to worry about is weather. It’s almost always ideal for growing grapes, and is one reason why the technical quality of California wine is the best in the world. Never a flaw, never a missed beat.
That wasn’t the case in 2010, which was unusually cool and even wet. This meant that winemakers couldn’t let the fruit stay on the vine until it ripened and then ripened some more, the process that helps produce the telltale richness and fruitiness that expensive California wine is famous for.
Some winemakers made up the difference with their bag of tricks; I’ve tasted reds and even whites with high alcohol and extracted fruit from the 2010 vintage, which wasn’t supposed to happen. But we need to get those scores, don’t we?
And then there are wines like the Stag’s Leap ($53, sample, 13.9%), which tastes like one would expect given the weather: less fruity and less rich (though, in keeping with the winery’s style, still reasonable alcohol levels). It smells like typical Napa Valley cabernet, fruity and spicy, but it doesn’t taste like it. The black fruit is subdued and the tannins are subtle and stay well in the back. The wine lacks a red Bordeaux’s earthiness, but tasting this blind might confuse more than one person.
This is red meat wine for Father’s Day -- and especially for dads who don’t judge wine before they taste it or expect all pricey California reds to taste the same every time. Vintage difference is not necessarily a bad thing.
More about Father’s Day wine:
• Father's Day wine 2013
• Father's Day wine 2012
• Expensive wine 44: Patricia Green Yamhill County Pinot Noir 2010