Tag: Duckhorn

I can’t make “pun” of this winery’s name

I can’t make “pun” of this winery’s name

For every one of our blog posts we have an important introductory step that takes place before we write a single word:  brainstorm a headline.  For reasons even we do not fully understand, we cannot get started before the headline has been cast in stone.  Usually, the headline is a play on words or a pun; for example, when we visited Duckhorn Vineyards last year our headline was “Wine that fits the bill.”  Get it? Bill?  Ducks have bills.  If you want to check out that review, here it is:  Wine that fits the bill.  Last week we visited one of Duckhorn’s sister wineries and guess what?  They made a pun out of their own name in such a way that we simply couldn’t top it:  Paraduxx Vineyards.  What do you find on every bottle?  Two ducks.  A pair of ducks.  Paraduxx.  Get it? For this post, then, we gave up on finding a clever title and decided to just get to the wine.

For those unfamiliar with the Duck family of wineries, the “grandfather” of them all is the previously mentioned Duckhorn Vineyards.  Today, there are several different brands under the Duckhorn umbrella, each with a different varietal or geographic focus: Goldeneye – primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from Anderson Valley in Mendocino County; Migration – excellent Pinot Noir offerings from Sonoma’s Russian River region; Decoy – producing Napa and Sonoma wines at prices that are surprisingly affordable ($25 for their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon); and finally, Canvasback – producing wine from vineyards in Washington state.  Each of the brands has some sort of duck reference in the name, although some of them we had to Google to understand (we did not know that Goldeneye and Canvasback are species of ducks).

Okay, enough about ducks.  Let’s talk about Paraduxx wines.  If Duckhorn is well-known for being a “Merlot house,” Paraduxx is a “blend” house:  most of their wines are blends of red varietals.  However, the blends were not the typical Bordeaux or Napa blend (Cab + Merlot) but more creative and inventive blends we have not seen in our other winery visits.  Many wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County have multiple labels and often there is a clear quality distinction between the wines sold under each label.  The winery’s main wine is considered the “A” brand and the others are “B,” “C,” etc.  It is important to stress that Paraduxx is not a “B” brand to Duckhorn, rather it is a sister winery with a different wine making approach.

When we arrived at the winery they placed a glass of the 2015 Paraduxx Proprietary Napa Valley White.  While it is not uncommon in Napa to find a proprietary red wine, proprietary white wines are not something we recall coming across.  We were told that the concept of a proprietary white was established in order to create a sense of quality and gravity to the white wine.  Often, white wines are the “throwaway” wine in Napa – something to ease visitors into the wine tasting before the serious (meaning: red) wines are poured.  We enjoyed the Paraduxx proprietary white which is composed of white varietals with Viognier making up about 2/3 of the blend.  Although it was aged in oak it was nicely tart and crisp – the perfect wine for the hot Spring day.

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A white wine that wants to be taken seriously

Once we were seated out in the gorgeous Paraduxx back patio, our host Miguel Hurtado came out and gave us a quick overview of the winery and helped us understand the connection with (and differences from) Duckhorn.  Despite his youth Miguel turned out to be really knowledgeable about the wines and a fantastic ambassador for the wines and the brand.  He was also very generous in offering us tastes of wines that were not part of a regular tasting.  After we finished the Proprietary White, Miguel brought out the entire red wine tasting at once, which is the way Paraduxx prefers to introduce its wines to guests.  Rather than tasting one wine at a time, four reds are poured simultaneously, allowing tasters to jump back and forth between the wines and make comparisons and also revisit wines after they have had a chance to open up.  In addition, each wine is in its own glass, thereby avoiding the inevitable mixing of wines (and aromas and flavors) that occurs when you use a single glass to taste.  We prefer this type of tasting and wonder why more wineries do not follow this practice.

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Wines delivered together so they can be tasted together

From the picture above it may look as if 8 different wines were delivered; please do not get overly excited, these are two sets of the same four wines, one for each of us.  Our first Paraduxx red wine was the 2013 Cork Tree Red Wine, a blend of Malbec (43%), Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), and Merlot (19%).  The four of us tried the Malbec and I believe we all were expecting the wine to be very spicy and bold, similar to the Malbec wines we have tasted from Argentina.  This blend, however, was mellower than South American Malbec, perhaps because of the other varietals in the blend and the 18 months in French oak.  We found this wine to be smooth, lightly tannic, silky and soft compared to some of the wines that followed.

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Lush wine with a mellow finish

Our second red wine was another unique blend – at least unique to us – 50% Cabernet Franc with 47% Zinfandel and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Compared to the Cork Tree blend, the 2013 Rector Creek – Block 5 Red wine had stronger aromas and on the palate boasted much higher tannins and more acidity.  We all agreed that this wine would pair well with a thick juicy steak.

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Perfect wine for pairing with grilled meat

Our third red blend was the 2013 Paraduxx Atlas Peak Red Wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Zinfandel (31%), and Sangiovese (18%).  This was the favorite wine of our grouping, although not everyone picked it as their favorite the first time through the four wines.  One of the benefits of having the wines served at the same time and in their own glass is the ability to come back and taste each again.

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Wine Enthusiast gave this wine 90 points

The final wine in our red blend tasting (but far from the final wine of the afternoon) was the 2014 Paraduxx Pintail Napa Valley Red Wine, a blend of Zinfandel (63%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (37%).  The youngest of the four wines, the Pintail blend had bold fruit, strong tannins and a nice long finish.  We look forward to trying this wine again when it has aged a bit and see how the flavors progress.

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This is one of Paraduxx’s new releases

 

Miguel let us work our way through the four red blends at our own pace and when he saw that most of us had empty glasses he asked if we would like to try any more wines.  We enthusiastically accepted and Miguel proceeded to bring out a taste of 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from their sister winery Goldeneye, followed by a 2010 Paraduxx Rector Creek Red Wine (to compare to the 2013 we had tried during the tasting).  We were already familiar with the Goldeneye Pinot Noir, having visited the winery last summer; we enjoyed it as much as we had the previous bottles consumed at home.  The 2010 Rector Creek was luscious, smooth, fruity with a nice long and balanced finish.

But wait, there’s more.  We asked if there was any Duckhorn Merlot open and, thankfully, Miguel answered in the affirmative.  Several of the tasters in our party are big fans of the Duckhorn Merlot, truly one of the best in the country.  As we were preparing to go, Miguel twisted our arm and asked if we wanted to try another Duckhorn wine.  Because we are pleasers, we said “yes, if you like” and accepted one finally taste:  2013 Duckhorn “The Discussion.”  Unusual for Duckhorn, The Discussion is a blend – 64% Cab, 31% Merlot, and small percentages of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.  This was Duckhorn’s version of a Bordeaux blend, a good old-fashioned cuvee.  Aged for two years in 60 gallon Chateau-style barrels made of 100% French oak, The Discussion is a complex, sophisticated and elegant wine.  Definitely the right wine with which to end our day.

Before leaving the table I looked down and thought “I must document the immensity of today’s efforts by taking a picture of the battlefield.”  This is the carnage that we left behind.

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THIS is how you taste wine

We should mention that in addition to the strong wines Paraduxx offers visitors a beautiful and comfortable setting for tastings.

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Lovely company in a lovely setting

With a summer of family and friends visiting we expect we’ll make it back to Paraduxx (and hopefully Duckhorn as well) soon enough.

John & Irene Ingersoll

May 13, 2017

 

 

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Wine that fits the bill

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The tasting lineup at Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley

Writing a blog can take up a significant amount of precious free time, especially if you feel compelled, as we do, to post at least once a week.  With the pressure of jobs, kids, dogs, and the rest of life, we sometimes ask ourselves “is it worth it?”  Just when one of us feels like taking a break, something good motivates us to keep at it.  For us, the latest “something good” was making a connection through our blog (and our Twitter account @topochinesvino ) with Carol Reber, the Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Duckhorn Wine Company.  One half of this blog duo has worked in Marketing for the past 15 years and has a strong affinity for branding, communications, marketing, sales and distribution.  So when we connected with Carol via Twitter and she invited us to come up to Duckhorn Vineyards, we were doubly excited:  first, we have been purchasing the wine for years and love it; second, Carol is an awesome marketer working in one of the coolest businesses we can imagine.  If you don’t believe us, look her up on LinkedIn.

For those that have read our prior blog entries, you know that our goal since moving to Napa in 2013 is to taste wine at every one of the 450-500 wineries in Napa Valley.  We are making our way through the list haphazardly, with no particular order.  This past Friday we put Duckhorn to the top of our list and made the trip up the Valley close to the town of St. Helena.  The Duckhorn tasting room is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and is worth a walk-around pre- or post-tasting just to soak up the beauty and take some pictures.

After checking in we were given the option to sit inside or outside.  Having just come up from a tasting in the Carneros region 15 miles to the south, we hesitated, as the temperature in St. Helena was at least 20-25 degrees warmer.  But when we saw the stunning outside covered veranda, we opted for the outside tasting.  When we got to our table, I knew we were in for a nice afternoon.

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Irene bravely preparing for battle

Even before getting to our table, we had been offered a glass of Duckhorn’s Sauvignon Blanc.  It was a perfect match for the warm day:  crisp, balanced, with nice fruit flavors but also minerality and acidity to round out the finish.  When we finished the Sauv Blanc it was time to get to the real tasting.  As the picture at the beginning of the article shows, Duckhorn tastings include a card for each wine being served.  These cards provide an overview of the wine, tasting notes, and other useful information.  We wondered immediately why other wineries do not provide something similar; the cards were so useful we took them home with us.

The first two wines in the tasting were Merlot.  If you’ve seen the movie “Sideways,” or even heard about it, you might have a skewed view of the quality of this noble varietal.  To refresh everyone’s recollection, there is a scene in Sideways where Paul Giamatti’s character says:  “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving.  I am not drinking any (d)ucking Merlot.”  That was it – less than 30 seconds in a 7,380-second movie, but it had a measurable impact on the sale of Merlot wine in the U.S.  Pardon the editorial, but this is an idiotic reaction.  There, we said it.  Across the world, there are hundreds and hundreds of red wine varietals.  We really mean it – hundreds.  Of these hundreds, only four red varietals are considered to be “noble”:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  In arguably the world’s best wine region – Bordeaux – nearly two-thirds of the vines are planted to Merlot.  Wines from the famous “Right Bank” of Bordeaux are typically blends comprised of a majority of Merlot.  One of the best wines in the world, Chateau Petrus, is made from mostly Merlot (in some vintages, 100% Merlot).

Are there terrible Merlot wines out there?  Yes!  If you don’t like terrible wines, don’t drink them. But don’t condemn a noble varietal because of a line in a movie or because you tasted some crappy Merlot that, based on its rock-bottom price, you should have known was going to be bad.  Now that we got that out of our system …I can tell you that the Duckhorn Merlot is spectacular.  Our intrepid hostess and wine guide, Carol, told us that the winery’s founder, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, were actually inspired to grow Merlot in Napa Valley from their experiences in France – and particularly Bordeaux, the Right Bank, and Chateau Petrus itself.  As the price of a bottle of Petrus exceeds our monthly mortgage payment (and we have a pretty big mortgage!), we cannot say with any authority how close Duckhorn’s Merlot comes to Petrus.  What we can say, though, is that the two we tried were delicious, and excellent examples of a European, terroir-based approach to making wine.  While they had strong fruit aromas and flavors, the Merlot’s also had strong earthy elements, with hints of granite and chalkiness.  Both wines were wonderfully balanced with medium tannin and long finish.

We also tasted two Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offerings from Duckhorn as well as a Cabernet from Canvasback, a relatively new wine from Washington state, and some Pinot Noir from Goldeneye, a winery Dan and Margaret founded in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley.  Carol was exceedingly gracious and generous with us, pouring many more wines than a typical tasting.

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Our lovely hostess, Carol Reber, CMO of Duckhorn Wine Company

In addition to sharing wine with us, Carol gave us a lot of insight about the origins of Duckhorn, its founding over 40 years ago, the commitment of its founders, and their approach to wine making.  We also learned about the new owners of Duckhorn, who are clearly balancing respect for the founder’s traditions with a vision for growing and enhancing the brand.  Expansion into other states, managing and growing multiple labels, planting new vines, and building world-class facilities requires investment.  From what we can see, Duckhorn has a strong team dedicated to making great wines from multiple wine regions in the United States.  We will be adding Duckhorn to the “must visit” list we share with friends and family when they come to Napa.

John & Irene Ingersoll

August 19, 2016

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Irene Enjoying The Tasting
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View of vines through a Sauvignon Blanc