The more I taste the 2009 Napa Cabernets and 2010 California Pinot Noirs, the more I like them.
Despite a pair of October rainstorms, 2009 Napa Cabernet appears to have fully ripened, rendering wines that are both rich and structured. Of all red grapes, the loose-clustered Cabernet can weather the rain. Whatever mold or bunch rot might have existed is removed before the grapes are harvested. That and hand-sorting the berries separates the wheat from the chaff. Finally, any wines that look suspect after fermentation are either sold in bulk or bottled under second labels. High-end Napa vintners can ill afford releasing a less-than-exciting cuvée. Expect both 2010 and 2011 to be more variable.
The 2009 Cabernet harvest in Sonoma was far more difficult, as the rains came at an inopportune time. Cool weather that followed didn't help.
With California Pinot Noir, 2010 looks strong too, and far better than earlier analysis from winemakers. It would be hard to top 2009, a near-perfect growing year with scores of stunning wines.
2010 was more a roller coaster, with a very cool summer and then heat spikes closer to harvest. But Pinot does its own thing. It ripens earlier, and vintners who thinned their crops fared well.
I've been especially impressed by the 2010 Pinots from Sta. Rita Hills. There is much to admire, too, in the wines from Sonoma and Santa Lucia Highlands. So far, Anderson Valley Pinots have been the least exciting. But it's still early. There are plenty of wines that have yet to be released.
On paper, 2010 was hardly ideal from a grower's perspective. But the Pinots that were made and bottled are by and large exciting, perhaps a shade more elegant and refined than the richer wines from 2009. Even when the weather is less than ideal, it all comes down to individual sites and selection.
If you're curious who some of these top Pinot producers are in 2010, here's a hint: You'll recognize a lot of the same familiar names from my list of the Top 20 Sonoma Pinot Producers in the Oct. 15, 2011, issue.
What have your experiences been so far with 2009 Napa Cabernet and 2010 California Pinot Noir?