W I N E R Y & V I N E Y A R D S

Portfolio of Duckhorn Vineyard Wine Reviews

By Jason Barlow

It was a crisp, refreshing day in San Francisco, the sun managing to break through the layer of morning fog and brighten the city. The pristine ocean air swirled about Union Square as my colleague and I made our way towards Farallon Restaurant. They were generously hosting a portfolio tasting of Duckhorn company wines, with new and recent releases from all the Duckhorn labels and vineyards. I had long been a fan of their Decoy label, so I was quite pleased for the opportunity to taste a much wider variety of their renowned wine.

Margaret Duckhorn, who co-founded the Vineyard in 1976 with Dan Duckhorn, was present to greet new arrivals. We chatted briefly about her wines before she took up a place pouring right alongside the rest of the servers. The offerings of the day highlighted the three main labels of the Duckhorn company: Goldeneye, Paraduxx, and, of course, Duckhorn Vineyards. Each label showed its own special character, but the quality of the wines was consistently praise worthy.

The Duckhorns founded the Goldeneye estate in 1997 to fulfill their passion for Pinot Noir. Located in Mendocino's Anderson Valley, the cool ocean fog, clay soil, and long, mild days of the appellation are just the right ingredients for producing world-class Pinots. The tastings of two main release Pinots, along with two single vineyard releases from this estate, certainly lived up to their topnotch billing. The winery is open daily from 11am to 4pm should you want to taste for yourself. They offer a Core tasting for $5 or an Enhanced Tasting for $10. There are also tours offered on Fridays and Sundays at 11am. It is $20 for just the tour, or $45 for the tour accompanied by a lovely picnic lunch in the picturesque courtyard, catered specially to pair with the wineryís current releases.

At Paraduxx, they strive to be innovative and out of the ordinary. They specialize in a distinctly California red blend, with Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, created with great care by winemaker Bill Nancarrow. Tastings of the 2004 and 2005 vintages were both quite excellent, showing that a California blend just may take its place alongside the Super Tuscans and Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blends of Australia.

The 2006 vintage is being released soon, and Paraduxx is celebrating with an Open House on October 11th from 3pm to 6pm. There will be fine food, blending seminars, a silent auction, and live music. Tickets are $55 a person.

The selection of tastes from Duckhorn Vineyards itself included Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and their flagship varietal, Merlot. The wines poured were sourced from nearly all of the winery's seven estate vineyards, and the individual character of the distinct terroirs are reflected in the different wines. Winemaker Bill Nancarrow's method of approaching each vineyard block individually is key to harvesting when flavors have reached their peak and the tannins are at their softest.

The lush, well-structured wines we tried all reflected a high commitment to quality. To taste for yourself, the Estate House is open daily from 10am to 4pm. You can make a reservation online for a Tableside Tasting ($15) of a flight of current release Duckhorn wines. Enhanced Tastings ($25), which include four limited production wines, are also available.

After tasting a portfolio of sixteen different Duckhorn wines, my colleague and I agreed that while the winery has expanded their range over the years, they have maintained their commitment to making world-class wines. Saying goodbye, we thanked Margaret Duckhorn for the great contributions her company has made to the world of wine and for the great offerings that will surely come in the future. Duckhorn has the reputation as one of Napa Valleyís best wineries, and after these tastings, I am well-assured of why.


Duckhorn Vineyards
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
A wet growing season and long harvest yielded a crop of excellent fruit for this vintage. Aged for 18 months in French oak and blended with Merlot to add further complexity, this Cabernet unfurls a nose jam-packed with layers of fruit, including plum, cherry, boysenberry, blackberry, and currants. From its deep, dark purple hue pours ripe red fruit flavors that unfold upon plush tannins into dynamic notes of cedar, spice, and herbs, with a hint of black olive on the lingering finish. Serve this wine with grilled lamb in rosemary pepper marinade and enjoy.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Estate Grown, Napa Valley,
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Fruit from five different estate vineyards was blended with a touch of Merlot and aged in oak for 20 months to produce this fine wine of excellent depth. Held up to sunlight, the very deep violet hue glows. Connoisseurs will admire the rich and complex nose packed with earthy overtones of hickory, smoke, and cedar, contrasted by mellow notes of red fruit and vanilla. Nicely structured and well-balanced, the palate opens up with flavors of cassis and blackberry surrounding pockets of earth that finish soft and smooth. Indulge in a bottle now, and cellar another for ten years, as this wine shows great promise for development.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley,
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Monitor Ledge

With its cobblestones and gravelly, sandy loam soil, vines struggle to grow on the Monitor Ledge Vineyard but produce excellent fruit. This estate grown Cabernet, blended with a touch of Merlot and Petit Verdot and aged in French oak, is a well-structured, mouth-filling wine. Swirl a glass and lush aromas of cherry, raspberry, and red currants rise from the deep purple hue, mingling with subtle hints of sweet spice. On the palate, velvety tannins unfurl layers of red fruit with elegant notes of vanilla, chocolate, and coffee that finish oh so smoothly. An exceptional Cabernet, it deserves to compliment a juicy beef tenderloin, seasoned with roast garlic and rosemary.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley,
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Patzimaro Vineyard

At the based of Spring Mountain, the Patzimaro Vineyard enjoys high daytime temperatures and mild, cool evenings that produce outstanding fruit. The favorable growing conditions of the vineyard, combined with a fine growing season, have turned out a refined and balanced wine. From its deep black-purple hue, classic scents of black currants, blueberry, spicy earth, and mint envelop the senses. Sip slowly and close your eyes to savor the rich dark fruit flavors, lovely acidity, and soft tannins. The gentle dusty finish conjures up the majestic Napa countryside. Treat yourself to a bottle now, and cellar one away for ten years. Then treat yourself again.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Merlot 2006
This Merlot is a blend of fruit from several individual vineyard lots, with grapes grown on the Estate Vineyard, as well as by independent growers. The standout quality of the fruit required only small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot for complexity. Though still a young wine, lush aromas of plum, raspberry, and boysenberry pour from the ruby-purple hue, with nuances of earth and spice lingering in the background. Silky smooth tannins carry overtones of red plums and bing cherry, accented by the soft touch of oak. Picture the rich, fertile soils of the Napa Valley as the wines closes with a lingering dusty finish. Another classic Duckhorn wine!
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Estate Grown, Napa Valley,
Merlot 2005

Carrying on over 25 years of tradition, Duckhorn continues to craft fine wines, using only the lots which show the true character of the winery. A blend of predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 20 months in French oak, this luscious wine releases ripe plum and cherry aromas, with complex notes of cloves, leather, and earth out of a freshly swirled glass. Close your eyes and let velvet smooth tannins carry bright cherry and dark berry flavor over the palate, with subtle herbaceous notes adding a very nice depth. Open a bottle with an elegant cheese appetizer, and be sure to stock one or two in the cellar. This is a wine that will age well!
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Merlot 2005,
Three Palms Vineyard

Located on the northeast side of the Napa Valley, the Three Palms Vineyard's soil is rocky and well drained, with the stones absorbing much of the sun's heat. The fruit from the vineyard has been producing full-bodied wines, showing all the unique elements of the terroir since 1978. This 2005 vintage is no exception, blending Merlot with accents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Admire the deep ruby-purple hue, before pausing to fill your senses with the rich nose of cherry and vanilla, with hints of oak. On the palate, the soft, chewy structure carries sweet cherry, boysenberry, and orange spice that finishes with lingering notes of cedar and earth. Pair this lovely Merlot with game dishes or a tender cut of beef and enjoy.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Decoy, Napa Valley, Red Wine 2006
The sister label of Duckhorn since 1985, Decoy has produced fine wine from classic Bordeaux varietals. The 2006 vintage is a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot from the Napa Valley. The resulting wine, with its lush, deep violet hue, is graceful, smooth and sure to please a crowd. Its nose has tremendous depth, with springtime aromas of lavender and roses unfolding into ripe black cherries, tobacco, and hints of spice. The supple, yet solid tannins wrap the palate in soft fruit layers of red plums, cherry, and currants, with notes of fresh cracked pepper mingling beneath. Pair this excellent wine with a dry-aged prime rib eye roast with truffle oil and rosemary. At $30, this bottle is a great value.
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley,
Red Wine 2004

Duckhorn has crafted a bottle from this distinctive region since 1989, taking advantage of the high elevation terroir that produces wine with excellent structure and complexity. The 2004 vintage is no exception. Bottle-aged for a year longer than most of their other wines to promote further development, this fine red wine enchants drinkers with aromas of exquisite chocolate, wild blackberries, mushrooms, and spice. A sip brings rich flavors of dark berries and currants, surrounding bolder notes of coffee and dark chocolate that unfold into a dry, smooth finish with lingering hints of oak and soft floral tones. A very nice wine!
  Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Sauvigon Blanc 2007
This Sauvigon Blanc is made of fruit from several individual vineyard lots throughout the Napa Valley with various microclimates. Blended together and combined with Semillon, the fruit has produced a rich wine with a soothing, soft acidity. From its translucent-gold hue, fresh aromas of citrus fruits, peach, and orange blossoms invigorate the senses. The first sip sends lush tropical fruit, lemon, grapefruit, peach, and sweet spice drifting over the palate. With a full, slightly creamy mouthfeel and great depth of flavor, this is a wine well worth drinking. Enjoy it on its own before dinner, or pair it with halibut in a light Asian marinade.
Paraduxx Winery
  Paraduxx Winery, Napa Valley, Red Wine 2004
An elegant blend of 65% Zinfandel, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Merlot, winemaker Bill Nancarrow offers an excellent wine with lush fruit flavor. Spicy overtones add to its complexity. Swirl a glass and take in the sweet aromas of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry jam with notes of mocha, walnut, and black pepper rounding out the bouquet. Sip and allow supple tannins to carry ripe red-fruit flavors over the palate, unfolding into deeper notes of currants, oak, and spice. A lovely, dynamic wine you can serve to dinner guests with pride.
  Paraduxx Winery, Napa Valley, Red Wine 2005
Above average rainfall led to abundant clusters of fruit and a long harvest period. This prime fruit was then aged for 18 months in French and American oak for further flavor development. Out of the bottle, this rich, medium-bodied blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc is smooth yet bold with flavors. Strawberry, plum, spice, and tobacco mingle together in alluring bouquet. When slowly sipped, ripe blackberry and plum unfold upon supple tannins into bold notes of cocoa, coffee, and smoky earth. Winemaker David Galzignato has done some fine work. Savor a bottle now, but this wine promises to age well, too. So grab an extra one for the cellar.
Goldeneye Winery
  Goldeneye Winery, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2005
Moderate temperatures and superb ripening conditions in the Anderson Valley made for a slow and steady harvest, producing fruit of excellent quality. Aging in French oak for 16 months, helped produced a lighter, highly drinkable wine, with a bold depth of flavors. Black cherry, sweet spices, and hints of herbs rise up from a freshly swirled glass, setting you at ease for your first sip. Strawberry and cherry flavors pack the palate, with notes of vanilla and a touch of oak floating in the deep layers. A wine worthy to share with your dearest friends, cook up some portabella burgers and open two bottles. Youíll want them both.
  Goldeneye Winery, Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir 2005, Confluence Vineyard
Located in the heart of the Anderson Valley and offering a distinctive array of soils, exceptional Pinot fruit comes out of these vineyards. For this 2005 vintage, the quality was superb, as many of the blocks were harvested at near perfection. Out of this first-class fruit has come a first-class Pinot Noir. Leisurely swirl a glass, and then indulge your senses in the luxurious aromas of fresh strawberry, ripe plum, and dark cherry, with rich pockets of sweet spice and toasted oak. Sip ever so slowly, and relish the intoxicating blackberry, strawberry, cinnamon, and earth flavors that envelope the palate. Incredibly smooth and very well-structured. Aging in the cellar will certainly result in further development. A spectacular wine!
  Goldeneye Winery, Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir 2005,
Gowan Creek Vineyard

Two miles north of Confluence Vineyard, the Gowan site combines the valley's warmer character with the cooler elements of the northern “deep end" These unique conditions produce wines that are potent and expressive. This 2005 vintage leads you in with a nose brimming over with ripe black cherry, blackberry, and raspberry, which opens into deeper scents of tea, dusty earth, and hints of oak. Bursting from the rich ruby hue, come ripe fruit flavors of cherry and wild blackberry, with complicating nuances of earthy minerals. Well-controlled acidy and a lush mouth feel make this a highly drinkable wine. Paired with roast duck, fresh grilled salmon, rich mushroom dishes, or an elegant cheese plate, this excellent wine will not disappoint. Drink now or in a few years.
Decoy Wines
  Decoy Wines, 2006 Napa Valley, Red Wine
The sister label of Duckhorn since 1985, Decoy has produced fine wine from classic Bordeaux varietals. The 2006 vintage is a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot from the Napa Valley. The resulting wine, with its lush, deep violet hue, is graceful, smooth and sure to please a crowd. Its nose has tremendous depth, with springtime aromas of lavender and roses unfolding into ripe black cherries, tobacco, and hints of spice. The supple, yet solid tannins wrap the palate in soft fruit layers of red plums, cherry, and currants, with notes of fresh cracked pepper mingling beneath. Pair this excellent wine with a dry-aged prime rib eye roast with truffle oil and rosemary. At $30, this bottle is a great value.
Migration Wines
  Migration Wines, Anderson Valley, Pinot Noir 2006
Mild temperatures during harvest time allowed the 2006 fruit to be handpicked by block based on ripeness. Such ideal conditions resulted in superb fruit for winemaker Zach Rasmuson. With this excellent harvest, he crafted a fine, dark ruby wine, with great depth and drinkablitity. Take a moment to indulge yourself in the bouquet of strawberry, raspberry, cola, hints of mint, and subtle floral notes that emanate from the glass. Savor the bright flavors of cherry, spiced plums, vanilla, and cola as they float across the palate. This is another fine effort from the Duckhorn company. Enjoy a bottle now, and save another for the cellar.

Duckhorn Vineyards
1000 Lodi Lane
Saint Helena, CA 94574
(888) 354-8885
(707) 963-7108
Map and Directions

7257 Silverado Trail
Napa Valley, CA 94558
(866) 367-9943
(707) 945-0890
Map and Directions

9200 Highway 128_Philo,
CA 95466_
(800) 208-0438
(707) 895-3202

Map and Directions

Decoy Wines
1000 Lodi Lane
Saint Helena, CA 94574

Migration Wines
9200 Highway 128
Philo, CA 95466

Other Great Related Links:
Andy Beckstoffer's Imprint On The Wine Industry
A Day in the Dust: A Tasting of 2005 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Portfolio of Duckhorn Vineyard Wine Reviews
Freemark Abbey
Rutherford Napa Valley Tastings 2008
Rutherford - Napa Valley, A Day in the Dust Newsletter

Paso Robles, CA Tastings 2008
Paris Wine Bars (Bistros) By Eric Gaudet
Italian Wine Classification
Guide to Napa Varietals
Ten Best Wines of 1998




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