A good year for California which has been rather overlooked, being sandwiched between the superb 1995 and 1997 vintages. The winter was wetter than normal, with many a big, blustery storm, and the spring bloom and berry-set period was affected by rain and inclement weather, which reduced the crop size.
There then followed heatwave weather in July and the first 3 weeks of August, which had the effect of speeding up the ripening process. Some cool weather then set in and this led to the ripening process being lengthened. The Chardonnays were impressive, while some very noteworthy Pinot Noirs were also produced. The 1996 Cabernets are not as chunky, powerful or tannic as the best 1994 or 1995 wines but they do possess excellent concentration, depth, richness and polish.