Duckhorn Vineyards produces a roster of top-tier Napa Valley wines, but its roots are anchored deep in Merlot. When the winery was established in the late 1970’s, many Napa Valley properties were using Merlot as a component in blends. A great fan of Merlot since traveling through St. Emilion and Pomerol, Dan Duckhorn felt that this elegant varietal was under-appreciated in North America: The softness, the elegance, the texture. It was Duckhorn who pursued Merlot’s potential as a stand-alone varietal in California.
In 2013, the final blend combines 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc aged 15 months in French oak (25% new). That year, a warm, dry spring brought on early bud break and created ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set. In the weeks after Labor Day, a moderate heat event followed by a period of perfect weather created a dream scenario for end-of-season ripening. Rain was not a factor, and for the second vintage in a row, the quality of the grapes was exceptional throughout Napa Valley. The 2013 harvest was early and even, and all of the Estate fruit reached the winery early in October.
This gorgeous wine is one for the hedonists. Intense ripe cherry on the nose is followed by more nuanced notes of cedar, orange peel, and cigar box. On the palate, black raspberry and spiced plum play with savoury nutmeg and graphite. With firm, well-integrated tannins that extend the finish, this beautifully-structured Merlot promises great aging potential.
“It’s the flagship, a benchmark for the variety domestically, and it dares pretentious self-defined Merlot haters to try and not love it. Bold and structured, you get all you could ask for – black cherry, pie spice, sweet oak, graphite and a hint of citrus zest take a long ride on fine grained tannins. Duckhorn has made a lot of great Merlot, and this may be my favorite to date.”
94 points, Rich Cook, winereviewonline.com, Aug 2016
“Solidly built, with a lively, focused core and aromas of dark berry and spice mixed with sleek flavours of cherry and licorice. Drink now through 2027.”
90 points, Wine Spectator, Nov 2016
“Duckhorn takes the soft lushness of merlot and brings along some crisp tailoring. It’s a clean wine with stamina, coasting on soft cherry flavor, darkening to blueberry length. A simple pleasure.”
90 points, Wine & Spirits, Oct 2016