Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley 2017

Deep ruby color; black cherry, black plum, raspberry, mocha on the nose; black cherry, black plum, raspberry, blueberry, dark chocolate, baking spice, oak note on the palate.

Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley 2017

Dry; big, rich, concentrated. Packs unexpected power for a merlot, thanks to slew of other fruit as 20% of the juice. Concentrated dark fruits persist through satisfying finish. Tasty, fine-grained tannins and acidity (3.61 pH) help frame the fruit and prevent this from careening into cartoon jammy territory. It is a thick, big boy wine. Merlot production has been a focus of Duckhorn from the beginning and it shows with this effort. 14.5% ABV

Blend of 80% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 2.5% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot, 0.5% malbec. Spent 15 months in French oak, 40% new, 60% neutral. The grapes came from Duckhorn estate vineyards, but also from independent growers in Napa—thus the Napa Valley designation. Duckhorn also produces a number of premier—more expensive—single-vineyard merlots from their estate vineyards.

Duckhorn winemaker Renée Ary

After working at Duckhorn for a decade, Renée Ary became the fourth winemaker in the 40-year history of Duckhorn in 2014. The website notes: “Renée is recognized for making some of the finest wines in the history of Duckhorn Vineyards.”

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.

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.

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn

Of the sale, Duckhorn president and CEO noted: “TSG recognizes and values how unique we are in the North American wine industry and is committed to preserving the strong culture that defines us. At the same time, we share an exciting vision for our company’s future. By combining their consumer expertise and global reach with our luxury wine market proficiency and relentless focus on quality, we can ensure that our next 40 years will be as exceptional as our first four decades.”

Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley 2017 is rich, plush, polished, complex expression of mostly merlot. This vintage marks the 40th anniversary of harvest at Duckhorn. Polished, plush, complex. Entry-level bottle—for Duckhorn—this is still a premier wine. Pair with grilled or roast beef; filet mignon; grilled or roasted chicken; lamb; roast pork and pork loin; blue cheese, cheddar cheese, gorgonzola. $45-56

Duckhorn Vineyards website

Duckhorn Vineyards Estate House tasting facility
Duckhorn Vineyards Howell Mountain vineyard
Harvest at Duckhorn in late 1970s