It is no secret that "Duck Dynasty" has become a huge hit. Everywhere I turn, I see Si or Phil’s face on a T-shirt, hat or blanket. I have only seen the show a few times, but I will admit that it is pretty darn funny. However, this column is not about "Duck Dynasty" the TV show. I am here to talk about another "duck dynasty" that I personally enjoy drinking, Duckhorn Wine Company. I figured that because it is duck season right now, it is the perfect time to talk about a wine company’s image that is based solely on ducks. It doesn’t hurt that they make incredible wines.
Duckhorn Wine Company was co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. Duckhorn is known for growing Bordeaux varietals (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot) in the heart of Napa and Sonoma Valley, Calif. Duckhorn is especially known for producing exceptional merlot. I know the movie "Sideways" says not to like merlot, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Merlot is one of the most juicy, complex, seductive grape varieties I have ever enjoyed. The most famous merlot wines come from Pomerol and St. Emilion in the region of Bordeaux. In California, merlot is typically used as a blending grape, but after Dan visited Bordeaux, he was hooked. Dan wanted Duckhorn Vineyards to be a showcase to great merlots.
According to the Duckhorn website, Dan said, "I liked the softness, the seductiveness, the color, the fact that it went with a lot of different foods; it wasn't so bold, didn't need to age so long, and it had this velvety texture to it. It seemed to me to be a wonderful wine to just enjoy. I became enchanted with merlot."
Duckhorn Wine Company is a group of many different vineyards and wine brands. The wine brands are Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration and Decoy. Each one of the brands has their own unique style to them. Duckhorn Vineyards' brand strategy "is to be the No. 1 super luxury Bordeaux house in North America."
Paraduxx "was created to allow the winemakers the freedom to explore other wine styles without detracting from Duckhorn Vineyards’ focus on Bordeaux varietals," according to the website.
Also according to the site, Paraduxx sourced four tons of zinfandel from the 100-year-old vines of Napa's Korte Vineyard in 1994. This was then blended with Duckhorn Vineyards' own estate cabernet sauvignon, as well as smaller amounts of merlot and petite sirah, to create the first Paraduxx vintage. The Paraduxx label was one of my first introductions to tasting zinfandel.
Tasting notes on Paraduxx zinfandel blend, 2009: This wine is a very deep purple color. It opens with an inviting mild blueberry bouquet, as well as blackberries and plum. The palate is full-bodied, ridiculously smooth and silky. This wine uses mild oak with notes of black cherry, plum and black pepper. The finish is dry, with balanced tannins and acidity. I love the voluptuous fruit with nice spice.
Goldeneye is solely focused on pinot noir. According to Duckhorn Wine Company, "In 1990, after 15 years of making world-class Bordeaux-varietal wines, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn embraced their growing love of pinot noir. Their vision for Goldeneye was simple, though not easy. They wanted to found a winery that could make a terroir-inspired expression of California pinot noir of equal stature to the acclaimed merlots they had pioneered at Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley."
Most pinot noirs in California are made in Russian River Valley and Carneros. However, they decided on Anderson Valley because they thought true greatness would be found in California's cool-climate viticulture. Goldeneye has won many awards and offers three wines under its label: Goldeneye Anderson Valley pinot noir, Goldenye Estate Grown Gowan Creek Vineyard and Goldeneye Ten Degrees Estate Grown. These three bottles range from $55-$185—they are expensive, but they are worth it.
Tasting notes on Goldeneye Anderson Valley pinot noir, 2010: The nose is filled with ripe raspberries, strawberries, and a hint of smoke and peppercorns. The palate is filled with raspberries and dark cherries, as well as baking spices. The finish is everlasting and pairs great with food. The moment I drank this wine, I felt like I was back in California on a foggy day. The day was damp but cool. I was overlooking the vineyards at the tasting room, just watching the fog roll by.
Migration was a project that started in 2001 with the purpose of exploring burgundy grape varieties. Duckhorn Wine Company had already experimented with pinot noir for years. Now, it was time to make some chardonnay. This was the first time this company had ever bottled a chardonnay under the label. It wasn’t until 2008 that Migration produced its first chardonnay using fruit from Russian River Valley.
Tasting notes on Migration Russian River Valley chardonnay, 2012: This wine on the nose is filled with stone fruits, like peaches, apples and pears, as well as orange blossoms, vanilla and fennel. The palate is incredibly rich but has definite minerality.
The tagline says it all: the everyday wine for the well-informed. Decoy wines are high-quality wines that do not have the price tag to go along with it. The Decoy portfolio also is a showcase of all four of the winemakers from the Duckhorn Wine Company. According to IRI data regarding domestic brand rankings, Decoy has taken the No. 2 spot in the luxury brand segment, generating more than $14.4 million in sales. The No. 1 spot is Sonoma Cutrer, which means Decoy is the No. 1 red spot.
Tasting notes on Decoy Sonoma County sauvignon blanc, 2012: This wine is citrus fruit-driven. The nose expresses pineapple, guava, lemon and lime. The palate is filled with ripe melon, grapefruit and fruit-squeezed lemons.
If you are deciding what to drink on these cool fall nights, I would check out the Duckhorn Wine Company portfolio. The range of diversity within the winemaking and different brands is incredible.
Cheers to duck season!
Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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