I forget how I first learned about Duckhorn, but I knew about them early enough on in my wine ‘career’ to know to visit them when we first went to the Valley on our honeymoon. When I was setting up places to visit – I called Duckhorn, inquired about a tour and tasting, and mentioned (literally just mentioned) that we were on our honeymoon.
The unexpected, and impressive, thing was when we arrived at the vineyard and the treatment that we received – for free, nonetheless. We were treated to a private guided tour of the facilities & barrel room by the winemaker, and a private tasting in a reserved ‘board room’.
On just about every return visit to the Valley, we would go on our own or take our guests for a tasting. While the experience wasn’t the same as our honeymoon (how could it be), we were always given a ‘red carpet’ treatment which is standard to all their guests and simply the way they do business.
The property and grounds are beautiful, well manicured, and simply relaxed and welcoming. You honestly feel like you are visiting your friends house in the Valley instead of a winery. There is a warm fireplace upon entering, a giant atrium for tasting, and a big wrap-around farmers porch all around the house.
Personally, I think that Duckhorn wines are in a bit of a transitional period since they were acquired by GI Partners in 2007. Volume has significantly increased, and they have launched a few new off-shoot brands like Paraduxx and Goldeneye to maximize profit. I’ve primarily noticed this in the Sauvignon Blanc (the ’07 and the ’08), and the ’06 Merlot – and I’m interested to see how it affects the rest of the portfolio going forward.
In the late 1800s, the land that is now home to the Three Palms Vineyard was a residence for famed San Francisco socialite Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She left her mark on San Francisco in the form of Coit Tower. She left her mark on the Napa Valley in the form of three lone palm trees, which were all that remained from her estate after the house fell into disuse and ruin. The 83-acre vineyard is located on the northeast side of the Napa Valley in an alluvial fan created by the outwash of Selby Creek where it spills out of Dutch Henry Canyon. The site is covered with volcanic stones washed down over the centuries from the canyon. The soil is rocky and well drained, causing the vines to send their roots far, wide, and deep to find the necessary nutrients and water. The stones aid the vineyard, absorbing the sun’s heat during the day and radiating the heat during the night to protect the vines during frost season and help ripen the fruit.
Duckhorn may say it makes ‘Merlot’ or ‘Cabernet’, but they focus on Bordeaux style wines which means that they always blend to balance and provide a consistent product. The 2004’s blend is:
- 75% Merlot
- 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
- 9% Petit Verdot
- 5% Cabernet Franc
- 1% Malbec
There is a surprising amount of Petite Verdot in this – 9% – which is equal to the amount of Cabernet. I’ve never seen a Bordeaux blend with more than 2-4% or Petite Verdot, so I’m assuming that the Merlot was a little too soft on it’s own, as Petite Verdot is a real peppery-licorice powered grape. It adds that deep, dark complexity to a wine, and can be overpowering if not done carefully.
When I first opened the bottle and smelled inside – it literally smelled like a raw steak. Usually, you get oak and cork at this stage, so I don’t even know why I do it to be honest. I did find it interesting though.
There is a beautiful blueberry and violet nose at open. A nice cassis comes in as well, with very subtle oak. This screams Napa terrior on the nose.
A cherry tartness is prominent at first taste. Slight mint or wintergreen, ever so subtle, most likely a byproduct from the oak. Lite body, not very viscous, which is not what I expected and I’m not sure how I feel about it either. My wife, however, loves this wine from the get go, so my palette might just be mis-firing – but my nose knows.
There was a weird tannin/bitterness battle at first, but it will subsided once the wine opens and warms up from the cellar.
The wine eventually settles into a deeply tannic, dark, minty, earthy, wine with a nice cola touch to it. The blend really hinders tying it to one varietal over the other, which is essentially the goal. It’s a nicely blended wine, which is NOTHING what I expected to be. Its a nice touch, and something to enjoy with each sip.