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Duckhorn Vineyards


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Notes from a tasting of Duckhorn wines presented by Margaret Duckhorn. They have obviously put a real whack of money into their operation and are sincere about quality. The use of various ‘duck’ names and logos is of an extent that even had me, an unrepentant punster, ‘quailing at some of the material she presented.

2003 Sauvignon Blanc – this is a Bordeaux style blend with 24% Semillon. It sees lots of oak and surprisingly shows the attributes of both varietals. Full and fruity with decent length, it finished quite soft. They use whole cluster pressing. Unfortunately the price in BC is $45 (commonly $19.99 US), which makes it entirely unattractive compared to other (many better) alternatives. For $10-15 more I’d buy a good white Bordeaux every time (Smith Haut Lafite etc.)

2002 Migration Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – this was the wine that reminded me why we (in Canada) no longer buy American wines – not if we have any sense, that is). A very pleasant little Pinot that Margaret described as an entry level wine, it showed primary sweet fruit in the nose and was bright, tasty, and not to be taken too seriously. Until we heard the local price, that is. This wine sells for $25 – 29 US. It would sell here for $79 Can., the price of any number of damned fine middle range Burgundies. Would I pay $79 for this, or would I rather spend it on a 99 Jadot Beaune Prem. Cru Clos des Ursules. You guess! (Hint – I was not born yesterday and I have not sustained any serious head injuries).

2002 Goldeneye Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – for those of you who are not hunters – yup, a Goldeneye happens to be (wait for it)…..a duck! We have moved up into the $45-50 US range here, or as we call it in Canada, the Clos de Vougeot price bracket. Cherry nose, forward sweet wine but turning a bit watery right at the end. Other than losing it a bit in the finish, it was a pleasant wine.

2002 Decoy Napa Red – this is a blend of 53% cab sauv, 26% merlot and 21% cab franc. It showed a typical nose with a tinge of greenness, forward despite the tannins which were slightly assertive, with medium body and length. I am going to stop talking about comparative pricing as it is bad for my blood pressure.

2002 Merlot Napa – not a heck of a lot happening in the nose (this was oddly common to several of the reds). 87% merlot, 9% cab sauv, 3% cab franc, 1% petit verdot. Harmonious in the mouth, the tannins soft, and with good acidity. Decent now, and no rush. Damn – there went the blood pressure again. Around $45 US, and $100 Can.

2001 Merlot Estate – 83% merlot and 17% cab sauv. Bit more happening in the nose here but nowhere near the banquet of chocolate and cherry that I’d anticipated. Also a hint of green. Obviously a more serious wine and needing some time to tame the slightly harder tannins.

2002 Napa Cabernet – 80% cab sauv, 15% merlot, 4% petit verdot, 1% cab franc. Medium bodied, a bit short in interest in the nose, but well balanced and well made.

2001 Napa Cabernet Estate – 84% cab sauv, 16% merlot. A serious wine with a bit more showing in the noise, firm tannins and decent length – the best wine of the night for me. Will need some considerable time to meld together.

2002 Parraduxx – 72% zinfandel, 25% cab sauv, 3% merlot. Very pleasant wine with full body, nice notes of berries and cocoa in the nose. Sweet at the end, with tannins that need a bit more time, but it should show well with only a bit more cellaring. I liked this a lot, but at $78 I will pass.

On the whole the wines struck me as no real improvement over the early 90s vintages, and a significant deterioration in QPR, unfortunately. It was only this sobering conclusion that prevented me from indulging in any duck puns…..

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... The use of various ‘duck’ names and logos is of an extent that even had me, an unrepentant punster, ‘quailing at some of the material she presented.

"... Puns are never acceptable." -- Ridicule (1996).

Those prices are pretty awful too, as you say. The more so, within a group of countries that claims to be a free-trade zone since 1993. What is the basic mechanism behind those elevated prices in Canada, Bill? Market, or tariffs, or what?

-- Max

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The truth is we use our Liquor Control Board markups to pay for our highways, medical system, and our very well paid provincial civlil servants. The truth is we don't want to see our socialists (BCGEU members) living on the streets.

Bill I have never noticed your obcession for punning. As for these wines I would probably skip them. I remember wondering why anyone would pay the kind of price the Parradux fetches, especially when it was next to the Uriah 2001 for a bit less. I have to admit that these wines were amongst my favorites back in the 80's and early 90's. I loved the SB when you could get it for about $20 cdn. There was also a blend called the 3 something Merlot. 3 Tree? 3 Palm?

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble


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