Decoy Merlot, California 2019

Deep ruby color; black cherry, plum, leather, oak note on the nose; black cherry, plum, raspberry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate on the palate.

Decoy Merlot, California 2019

Dry; soft, supple tannins with gently balancing acidity (3.55 pH). Blend of 80% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc spent 12 months in French oak, 35% new. California grapes—60% Sonoma County, 32% Central Coast, 8% Mendocino County. 13.9% ABV

Soft, lush, easy drinker. Can serve nicely as an introduction to red wines for people who are skittish around bolder wines with more tannic structure. It is not a sweet wine, but its fruitiness gives the impression of sweetness. Subtle fruits, not a fruit bomb. Affable, easygoing, dégagé drink. Medium body. Clean finish, medium length.

This began as a second-label pour in the Duckhorn portfolio, but has evolved into its own brand with its own winemaking team and state-of-the-art winery. The Duckhorn Vineyards portfolio also includes Duckhorn, Paraduxx, and Goldeneye. Other labels include Migration and Canvasback. All offer affordable, good, solid wines with large production, making them easily available. There were 247,500 cases of this made. Decoy emphasizes congenial, affordable wines that can be quaffed in their youth.

Decoy winemaker Dana Epperson

Dana Epperson is the winemaker at Decoy. Her background includes a stint at Artesa Vineyards & Winery, where Duckhorn Vineyards winemaker Mark Beringer was her mentor. As she noted in an interview, “in a way, I studied the Duckhorn Wine Company style before I came to Decoy.” She also notes that “Decoy got its name from being mistaken for something even better.”

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn
Harvest at Duckhorn in late 1970s

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards in 1976. They focused on merlot from the beginning. Today, the seven estate vineyards are located in the Napa Valley and on the slopes of Howell Mountain and produce a number of varietals in addition to the merlot core. It is not surprising that spin-off Decoy is proud of its merlot.

Duckhorn winery and vineyard
Duckhorn Vineyards Estate House tasting facility

The company is undergoing change. Dan and Margaret divorced in 2000. Dan was named Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. GI Partners, a private equity firm, purchased controlling interest in the Duckhorn Wine Company in 2007. In 2016, TSG Consumer Partners bought the brand and its wineries for a price in the range of $600 million according to published reports.

Decoy Merlot, California 2019 is a convivial, soft, bonhomous, fleshy red that will appeal to wine drinkers who are faint of palate. Classic, refined style. More sophisticated drinkers may wish for more complexity and depth, but they will not be offended. Pair with grilled cheeseburger; grilled or roast chicken; grilled or roast beef; lamb; roast pork and pork loin; comfort foods—meatloaf, pot roast; blue, cheddar, gorgonzola cheese. $15-20

Decoy Wines webpage

Decoy Ridgeline Vineyard in the Alexander Valley
Decoy vineyards