Napa Is A Kind of "Bordeaux In America", Here Winemakers Are Predicting Quality of the Vintage Before the Market Scores the Wines
Napa— One finds Napa winemakers here in California’s Cabernet Sauvignon cultural capital are commited to 100-point scores. The difference between here and other appellations is Napa winemakers get busy predicting quality before the market knows to better support price. In this sense Napa is Bordeaux in America, acting as the benchmark by which all other Cabernet Sauvignon based business is judged here in California. Now Napa wines are priced to bottled wine demand for 90-plus-point wines.
Thankfully, Enologix’s has made a strength out of 100-point scores. It’s crown jewels are analytics that predict quality before winemakers and critics know for sure. Rnabling winemakers to scale Cabernet Sauvignon. Co-founder Leo McCloskey created the analytics after working in Bordeaux with the likes of Domaines Barons Rothschild.
By relating phenolic chemistry to performance of bottled wines, analytics peer into the future—2016—to say whether ones’ new wines will be rated "89" versus "90" points. It starts with Enologix Q-10 Vintage Index which ranks 2012 versus the last 10-seasons. We already know this is not the greatest vintage for every winemaker everywhere in California.
Napa winemakers are not like gods, which mix genes, control ecosystems and weather or drive grape maturation, which drives 100-point scores. Winemaker can and have extracted whatever taste quality we can. One may do the best job one can; the question is does one’s personal sense of quality transmit to mavens of taste.
Which is why we have Enologix quality indices. As far as Enologix can tell, most Napa Valley winemakers were unable to carve quality from 2012 grapes harvested in September for the Early or Late Maturing Grape Group. September wines are lighter tasting due to poor phenolic extraction, and more savory due to poor maturation, than blockbuster years. They are much like 2005 wines. What we learned here is that the fantastic grapes, which were turgid make "2005-like" Wine.
Winemakers did not have the tools to extract the color without Enologix history of 2005 phenolic chemistry versus 2007 Wine Spectator scores. There were fewer 90-point wines.
Upshot: Winemakers will shy away from their September wines when making their iconic flagship wines to manage 100-point scores and protect "The price."
In September Enologix recommended to 50 winegrowers to harvest after the equinox, in October. Grapes barely matured by October 15th. We are the only winemakers modifying the standard fermentation practice we used last season. Caveat: The Standard Fermentation Practices (SFP) worked quite well in Pritchard Hill, Soda Canyon and backside Howell Mountain according to our sources.
Weather-wise 90-point scores are linked to heat summations of 3,200 Growing Degree Days (GDD). Through October 1996 GDD was 3,400 versus 3,000 in 2012. Heat by the Fall Equinox produces that deeper tasting and riper smelling Bordeaux blend. In 2012 GDD was 2,500 GDD through the equinox versus 2,900 in 1996.
In 2016 Wine Spectator should rate less than 50% of wines 90-points or higher.
Upshot: Ask what one can do now to make winemaking better. Determine the quality issues of the wines in your cellar now. Make corrections to phenolics without damaging taste quality and aroma attributes before blending. This is the real work.