Tag: silverado trail

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

She’s not holding me up
Paraduxx 2.jpg
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




You can still order a Cab here.

Irene in front of the Chimney Rock tasting room

After nearly a week and a half in the heat and humidity of New York and Boston, we were happy to be home and ready to hit the trail and enjoy some Napa Valley wine.  And we hit the trail, literally: Silverado Trail.  There are two main thoroughfares through Napa Valley – Highway 29 and Silverado Trail.  Of the two, Silverado Trail is generally less crowded and, for us, a prettier drive.  Most importantly, there are several dozen wineries along Silverado Trail to choose from.  This past weekend, we decided to try Chimney Rock Winery, which is located on the Trail in the Stags Leap District, one of the official A.V.A.’s (or appellations) in Napa Valley. At just over 1 mile wide and 3 miles long, the Stags Leap AVA is the smallest in the Napa Valley, but perhaps the most well-known, especially for Bordeaux-style red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Of the approximately 1,300 acres of vines in Stags Leap, over 80% are planted to these two varietals.  It is the lure of luscious red wine that brought us to Chimney Rock.

Turning into the winery off of Silverado Trail, a long driveway takes you up to the main building where the tasting room is located.  In Napa Valley, winery building architecture shows many influences, many of them from Europe – Spanish-style, French manor, Italian villa, etc.  At Chimney Rock, the influence is not European, at least not directly, but South African.  The building pictured above was designed in what is known as the Cape Dutch style, an Afrikaner style of architecture found in the West Cape of South Africa.  As it turns out, the original husband-wife owners of the winery had strong ties to South Africa – Stella was born there and Sheldon had worked there for several decades.

In 1980, Stella and Sheldon (“Hack”) Wilson purchased the Chimney Rock Golf Course which, at the time, was an 18-hole course right off of the Silverado Trail.  They decided to cut the course size in half and convert 9 of the holes to vineyards.  They began making white and red wines from the grapes planted on the estate.  In 2004, Chimney Rock was sold to another family, the Terlato’s, who have planted additional vines and invested in an impressive expansion of the winery operations.

One of the impacts the Terlato’s have had on the winery since taking over more than a decade ago has been focus:  producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  While they do make a fresh, balanced Sauvignon Blanc from grapes sourced from Rutherford, they really are a “Cab house,” and we were pleased to hear that all of their Cab and red blends come from grapes grown on the estate property.  At many wineries, tastings will include a white wine or two (maybe a bubbly or a rosé), a “softer” red wine such as Pinot, or maybe a Zinfandel, and fnishing with a Cab.  At Chimney Rock, it is clear that Cab is king:  after a refreshing taste of Sauvignon Blanc (which was greatly appreciated on a hot summer’s afternoon), we tasted four red wines, three of which were cab.  Our first red was the 2012 Elevage, Chimney Rock’s proprietary red blend – 57% Merlot, 35% Cab, and 8% Petit Verdot. While we enjoyed all of the wines, the Elevage was our favorite, with a silky texture, strong aromas of blueberry and blackberry as well as some vanilla and coffee bean, and a balanced finish.

Glasses of Chimney Rock Elevage

After we finished the Elevage, our next wine was a 2012 Terlato Cab, produced from estate grapes but bottled under the Terlato name.  When the wine was poured, we were told that the Terlato Cab was more of a European-style wine than the other Chimney Rock wines.  In fact, the wine did have more earthy, mineral aroma with the fruit more muted than the typical Napa Cab, although it still had body, strong tannins and a nice finish.  To compare the difference in styles, the 2012 Terlato was followed by the Chimney Rock Cab from the same vintage.  We could definitely detect a difference in styles as the 2012 Chimney Rock had a stronger fruit presence, but overall the wine was smooth and balanced.  Our final pour of the day was the 2013 Chimney Rock Cab, which enabled us to compare the 2012 against the 2013.  To our taste, the 2013 was still “young” – definitely drinkable, but would benefit from some more aging in the bottle.

Once we were done with our tasting, we stayed a while longer in the patio area enjoying the shade and the amazing views of the vineyard from our table.

Irene toasting the lovely view

After getting permission from our hosts, we ambled into the vineyards to get a closer look at the grapes and vines.  At this time in Napa, most grapes are undergoing what is called “veraison,” which essentially means the early stages of ripening.  During this process, red wine grapes are turning from their initial green color to their final deep-purple color.  It is truly a beautiful sight to catch the grapes in their in-between stage.

Veraison at Chimney Rock


We promise that no grapes were harmed during our sojourn among the vines. In another month, though, we might be tempted to sample a few.  Until then, we’ll enjoy our Cab from the 2012 and 2013 vintages at home.

John & Irene Ingersoll

August 1, 2016

Front of Chimney Rock tasting room
Chimney Rock Vineyards
Chimney Rock Back Patio
Acres and Acres of Grapes
Chimney Rock Patio
John Enjoying a Cab
Irene Enjoying a Cab