One of the great Napa estates that made their name in the world market for top notch Merlot, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards back in 1976. What began with a mere 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, Duckhorn now has many arms of their dynasty including a winery in Washington (Canvasback) as well as Goldeneye out of the Anderson Valley, who is steadily producing a gorgeous lineup of Pinot Noirs. Duckhorn relies on seven estate vineyards for their wines and makes some of the most consistent Merlot in Napa Valley.
In early 2014, Renée Ary became the fourth head winemaker for Duckhorn Vineyards winemakers that began with Tom Rinaldi in 1978. Her promotion came after 11 years after serving as both assistant and associate winemaker. Born and raised on the East Coast, Renée moved to California to attend Saint Mary’s College, where she earned a degree in chemistry and art. Fascinated by the intersection between science and an art, winemaking quickly became Renée’s passion, career and way of life. Her first job was working in the lab at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, as she trained under famed winemakers Genevieve Janssens, Steve Leveque and Richard Sowalsky. During that time she took classes in winemaking and viticulture at UC Davis and Napa Valley College.
In August of 2003, Renée joined the Duckhorn Vineyards team under then winemaker, Mark Beringer. Throughout her first decade at Duckhorn Vineyards, Renée learned every detail of production moving from lab manager to enologist to assistant winemaker to associate winemaker in charge of Duckhorn’s Sauvignon Blanc and Monitor Ledge Vineyard wines. Renee has crafted some beautiful wines over the past few years. She has a gorgeous new release white wine, her 2017 Duckhorn Chardonnay (WWB, 91), which has great balance and a soft, beautiful texture. I was blown away with the 2016 Duckhorn ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 93) which is extremely decadent and layered, showing beautiful, earthy terroir. Learn more about this famed winery at duckhorn.com Here are the beautiful new wines by Duckhorn.
2017 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc- The 2017 Sauvignon Blanc by Duckhorn deftly combines both texture and freshness as this is a fantastic new bottling by winemaker Renee Ary. On the nose this takes on gooseberry with orchard fruits and a touch of starfruit that all combine nicely in the glass. The palate shows a good viscosity and sense of minerality with bright citrus and orchard fruits with a touch of vanilla cream towards the back end. Drink 2019-2024- 91
2017 Duckhorn Chardonnay- The 2017 Duckhorn Chardonnay opens with aromas of bright pear and lemon zest with vanilla cream that build in the glass. The palate shows a silky mouthfeel delivering bright orchard fruits with lemon cream and hints of butterscotch. Delightful now, this will cellar well over the next seven plus years. Drink 2019-2025- 91
2016 Duckhorn ‘Napa Valley’ Merlot- The 2016 Duckhorn ‘Napa Valley’ Merlot is a complex blend of 77% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, .5% Malbec and .5 % Petit Verdot that was largely aged in neutral oak prior to bottling. This opens with an arousing bouquet of kirsch, sweet pipe tobacco, leather and blackberry cobbler that all build in the glass. The mouthfeel here is gorgeous as black and red fruits collide with the toasty oak and earthy undertones. Beautifully balanced, this will age for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 92
2016 Duckhorn ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2016 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon is a compelling blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc that was aged for sixteen months in 50% new French oak prior to bottling. The nose is quite forward with roasted dates with milk chocolate and Asian spices that all develop in the glass. The palate is plush, delivering forward and rich dark fruit flavors with a touch of mocha and bell pepper. Layered and decadent, this is a delicious new release that will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 91
2014 Duckhorn ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2014 Duckhorn ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon is a silky blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged in 95% new French oak for 16 months prior to bottling. The nose evokes red bell pepper with sagebrush and dark chocolate covered cherry with espresso bean. The palate is silky smooth, revealing a soft mouthfeel and a marvelous texture. Black currant jelly, blackberry pie, mocha and creme de cassis flavors all connect marvelously on the palate. Delicious now, this gorgeous wine by superstar winemaker Renee Ary will cellar well over the next fifteen plus years. Drink 2019-2034- 93
2015 Duckhorn ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon- The 2015 ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Merlot with 2% Petit Verdot. Aged for 18 months in 80% new French oak, this opens with an intense bouquet of creme de cassis, violets, blackberry cobbler and mocha that build in the glass. Soft on the mouth, this has a wonderful purity of fruit on the palate. There is also a wonderful seamless quality to this wine. Blackberry pie, red bell pepper and milk chocolate flavors with earthy undertones complete this gorgeous bottling. While absolutely delicious now, this will cellar well for the next two decades. Drink 2019-2034- 93
2015 Duckhorn ‘Rutherford’ Cabernet Sauvignon- Sourced from the Red Barn Vineyard and Rutherford River Vineyards, the ‘Rutherford’ Cabernet Sauvignon was aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak prior to bottling. Creme de cassis, red bell pepper, and milk chocolate aromas fill the glass and build with more air. Fresh and lively on the palate, this shows beautiful earthy tones with copious dark fruits and chocolate covered espresso bean flavors. Delightful now, try to resist this beautiful wine for at least another year. Drink 2020-2035- 93
2015 Duckhorn ‘Patzimaro Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon- The ‘Patzimaro Vineyard’ is located in the St. Helena AVA and is known for large diurnal shifts. Black tea, anise and creme de cassis aromas fill the glass. The palate shows beautiful balance and terroir with toasty oak that wraps around dark fruits, milk chocolate and black olive tapenade. Delicious now, this will continue to evolve well for the next fifteen plus years. Drink 2019-2033- 92