1994 Vintage Ratings:
Red wine vintage rating: 97
1994 Top Three Napa Valley Wines Today:
Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon
Dalla Valle Maya
1994 sparked the start of this current Halcyon era for Napa Valley wines. Following the challenges presented by the AxR rootstock debacle and a plague of phylloxera, all the stars aligned this year: better planting material, keener site selection, well-considered row orientation, and a new wave of investment in the vineyards and the wineries. All this was fortuitously matched by near-ideal growing conditions this year, ultimately revealing this region’s potential to produce extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon.
A low amount of winter rain (approx. 14 inches/355 mm) and a dry yet cool spring led to a slightly delayed budburst. Summer temperatures were moderate to warm, with only a couple of days approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Oakville area. Otherwise, the daytime temperatures were mostly in the 80s to low 90s, ideal for a long, drawn-out growing season and affording near-perfect conditions for flavor development and phenolic ripeness. A potentially hefty crop combined with the cooler conditions meant fruit-thinning vigilance was required to hit the peaks of greatness, which a number of wineries went on to achieve. A sprinkling of rain in September was nail-biting but ultimately of little consequence. Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon was picked during the middle two weeks of October under fine, dry, and cool conditions.
Many of the top 1994s have held the test of time exceptionally well, still providing a lot of dense, perfumed black fruits. Alcohol levels generally weren’t excessive, and many of the wines are more medium and medium to full-bodied than full-on full-bodied.