Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 NYC Wine & Food Festival: Duckhorn Merlot

As the last of our three tasting events at the New York Wine and Food festival, we were invited to a vertical tasting of Merlot from Duckhorn Vineyard in Napa Valley. Duckhorn was the first winemaker in Napa valley to focus on Merlot, while most everyone else was looking at Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. For the past 40 years, they have sourced grapes from the northern reaches of the Napa appellation, where the climate and soils are more conducive to Merlot.

In 1978, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn released their first Merlot, based on the Bordeaux style--more subtle flavors, with a balance of fruit and earth. Since then, they have been one of the premiere producers of Merlot in California. As demand for Californian wines grew, the demand for Merlot outstripped the supply...until the movie Sideways came along, and ruined everything. These days, the public's demand for Merlot has stabilized to be the second highest consumed varietal, after Cabernet Sauvignon, and Duckhorn continues to release a wide range of wines under a wide range of brand names (all focused on the duck theme), from simple table wines to complex and subtle single-vineyard wines.

We had a chance to try wines from one of their premier vineyards, the Three Palms vineyard, and from six vintages ranging from 2009 to 2000. Each was amazing in its own way, and we learned a few important things.

  • These wines are made to be aged; they are held for 3 years before they are released, and will generally reach their peak in 3-5 years.
  • Merlot has some big flavors, and pairs well with red meats; something simple with an older bottle, but big, strong flavors with a wine at its peak.
  • They recommend we taste our wines from oldest to youngest, as the flavors get more subtle as the wine gets older and the young ones can kind of overwhelm the palette in comparison.
This was a great tasting for us, an opportunity to get a better understanding of what the best of Merlot can really taste like.



  1. With a balance of fruit and earth. Since then, they have been one of the premiere producers of Merlot in California.
    Food La Verne

    1. Yes, they are, and we understand why. It's that amazing balance of the fruit and earth. Thanks for the comment!