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Duckhorn Vineyards: A Napa Valley Jewel

By Julie Catalano  ::  Photography courtesy of Duckhorn Vineyards

Even in a storied area synonymous with winemaking and home to hundreds of wineries, the Duckhorn name stands out as a premier producer of California’s Napa Valley wines. Part of it is longevity — Duckhorn Vineyards was established 40 years ago by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn — but the real secret to their success is a belief that great wines begin in the vineyard.

The Duckhorn Portfolio’s seven vineyards in Napa, three in Sonoma County, three in Anderson Valley and one in Washington State provide the backbone to all of the company’s wines, allowing control over the quality and consistency in each bottle across six waterfowl themed labels — Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, Decoy and Canvasback. Each winery also has its own dedicated winemaker to give each bottling its signature style and focus.

Paraduxx was founded in 1994 and garners acclaim as the only area winery solely devoted to Napa Valley blends. Winemaker Don LaBorde calls Paraduxx “a winemaker’s dream.” It all started, he says, “with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at Duckhorn Vineyards in 1978, and over time, Dan and Margaret expanded into new varietals and regions. The first Paraduxx blend was produced in 1994 as just a single wine inspired by the great blends of the world but with a California twist. Since that first vintage of Zinfandel blended with Cabernet, we now make 14 different blends, using almost a dozen different varietals, and I get to work in a beautiful area that makes amazing wines.”

The Houston-born, Louisiana-raised LaBorde will present wines from Duckhorn’s impressive lineup at the Cordillera Ranch wine dinner on Tuesday, February 7.

After a greeting wine of Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the first course pairing with Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay, and a second course pairing with Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, guests will be treated to what LaBorde says is a rarity at a wine pairing dinner — the pouring of three red blends with the main course:

Paraduxx Proprietary 

Napa Valley Red Wine

“This is my baby — mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Zinfandel, so it has those really elegant characters like Cabernet gives you, but with this friendly, juicy kind of spicy character from the Zinfandel.”

Duckhorn Vineyards Howell Mountain 

Napa Valley Red Wine 

“Howell Mountain is a sub-appellation of Napa Valley, on top of a western facing hillside. The wines up there are really big, dark and rich —the kind you pair with heavy, rich, gamey kinds of dishes. It’s a monster of a wine.”

Duckhorn Vineyards 

The Discussion Napa Valley Red Wine

“This is Duckhorn’s pinnacle wine — a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged in 100 percent French Oak chateau-style barrels for 24 months. It’s a rich, elegant style of wine, soft, very balanced, that drinks well with food or by itself.”

Dessert will be accompanied by Duckhorn Vineyards Knights Valley Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.

“These wines are called stickies or sweeties, from grapes left on the vine for a long time, full of pretty floral aromatics with a rich, sweet structure that pairs well with most desserts.

LaBorde will also talk to Cordillera diners about what makes Napa Valley so special. Like real estate, winemaking is all about location, and Napa, says LaBorde, “is filled with these little pockets of microclimates, each with its own character and its own terroir, so Cabernet from the high elevation of Howell Mountain tastes different than Cabernet from Coombsville in the very south or from Calistoga in the northern end of the valley.”

“There are so many things to discover within Napa. I think you can visit Napa a hundred times and find a new little area or a new favorite wine, every time you visit. We’re very lucky to be able to work and live here.”

LaBorde also describes Duckhorn as a pretty amazing place to work as well, a family vibe, a spirit of closeness and collaboration among its winemakers, and a broad range of wines “is rare for a company our size. We’re not small and boutique-y, but we’re not one of the big corporations either. It’s rare to have a company our size be as homegrown as we are and to have built these brands from the ground up.”

Duckhorn Winemaker’s Dinner

Tuesday, February 7th

6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

$159.95 Members

$127.95 Cellar Club Members

Menu TBD

Duckhorn Vineyards

866.367.9945  ::  www.duckhorn.com

Paraduxx

866.367.9943  ::  www.paraduxx.com

Goldeneye Winery

800.208.0438  ::  www.goldeneyewinery