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Duckhorn vineyard view at sunset

Duckhorn Portfolio Wine Blog

Posts written by Neil Bernardi, Vice President of Winemaking  and many special guest bloggers. This collection of insights on winemaking, farming, entertaining and more is a great way to learn about the excitement of winery life and tips for enjoying the wines we produce.

Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking

Another First - 2016 Migration Harvest

Another first day of harvest, this time Migration has kicked off the season with the typical first pick of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. This remarkable vineyard, located in Santa Maria, is known as the source of some of the best Pinot and Chard in California. Planted on the famous Tepusquet bench, it has a unique maritime climate and partially calcarious soil, a relative rarity in California, but common in the old world. As you can tell from the incredibly small yet perfectly formed clusters, these wines are intense, unique, and totally delicious. Bo and German are also looking intense and unique as they ponder the beginning of a long harvest.

Migration First Grapes 2016

Time Posted: Aug 19, 2016 at 2:21 PM Permalink to Another First - 2016 Migration Harvest Permalink
Don LaBorde - Paraduxx Winemaker

Sarah, Production Assistant

Sarah has been with Paraduxx for 3 yrs! She started as an intern and was hired full time in the Spring of '14. The Winery would disappear into a black hole if it weren't for Sarah. She is the detailed oriented team member that reminds Don and Cardiff where they are supposed to be. An ex-college soccer player, Sarah uses her athletic prowess to run circles around everyone in the winery.

Sarah, Prod. Assistant

Time Posted: Aug 19, 2016 at 8:33 AM Permalink to Sarah, Production Assistant Permalink
Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking

Paraduxx First Grapes

We started harvest at Paraduxx on Monday with Estate Viognier for the proprietary white wine, one of my favorites.  Check out Don’s effervescent toast!

Time Posted: Aug 18, 2016 at 1:20 PM Permalink to Paraduxx First Grapes Permalink
Courtney Preston - Viticulturist

The Tools of Harvest

Harvest is such an exciting and high energy time of the year. During this time there are some very important tools that we use in order to safely and efficiently harvest all the grapes over a 2-3 month period. Here are some of the Vineyard Team's most important tools:

Vineyard Tools

Picking pan/lug:

This grey box is important for hand harvesting fruit. Our harvesting crews use these lugs to pick fruit into. Once they fill up one of these they dump it into a bigger bin that gets transported to the winery.

Gloves/ Safety Vest:

The cut resistant gloves and bright orange safety vest are very important for keeping the crews safe and visible!


A good pair of reliable, warm and comfortable boots make the long work hours so much easier!


The majority of our harvesting is performed at night and although we have large, overhead spotlights to make the area we are picking bright as day it still helps for the guys to have headlamps so that they can see the fruit perfectly with no shadows.

Picking knife:

This is the tool that each harvester uses to cut each cluster from the canes.


While it is our Winemaker and her taste buds who decides when the fruit is at the optimal maturity to harvest, we in the vineyards use a refractometer to run quick tests to assess if the sugar content in the fruit is at a point where it needs to be sampled more extensively by the Winemaker.

Happy Harvest!

Time Posted: Aug 18, 2016 at 9:01 AM Permalink to The Tools of Harvest Permalink Comments for The Tools of Harvest Comments (3)
Don LaBorde - Paraduxx Winemaker

Vineyard Focus: Rector Creek

Rector Creek, the home ranch of Paraduxx is a spectacular place. Located just north of the Yountville Cross road on the Silverado Trail, Rector Creek sits adjacent to the Rector Reservoir. Possibly due to the more consistent temperatures of the reservoir, Rector Creek seems to always have clear skies above it. Even on foggy mornings, you can see the sky at the winery. When approaching from afar, it's almost like a beam of light from the heavens is shining on Rector Creek. Loose rocky soils and a daily afternoon breeze adds to the mystique of this place. For Paraduxx, we harvest 4 red varieties that go into 3 Vineyard designate wines as well as a little Viognier for our Proprietary White Blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are Harvested and each blended with Zinfandel from Rector Creek to produce 3 of our Vineyard designated wines. We only make 500 cases of each of these wines and they are only available from us directly through our tasting room, wine club and online. All 3 of these special wines show off this special place in their own way. We are very lucky to come to work here every day!

Rector Creek Sunny Day

Time Posted: Aug 17, 2016 at 3:52 PM Permalink to Vineyard Focus: Rector Creek Permalink
Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking

Winemaking Challenge 2016

(First, a little history): Last year the winemaking teams vied for glory in the first ever Duckhorn Wine Company Winemaking Challenge. Each team made 2 tons of Malbec from our Ridgeline Estate Vineyard, and the results are remarkable. The final judgement is coming up in the next few weeks, and the results will be posted as soon as they are in.

Harvest 2016 is here, as is the new challenge – Orange Wine! Now, don’t get worried, we haven’t traded in our beautiful vitis vinifera for citrus. Orange wine is a term for a white (grape) wine fermented with skin contact. In typical white wine fermentation the juice and skins are separated immediately, as the skins impart tannin, color, and astringency to the resultant wine. Skin fermented white wines (Orange Wines) are actually one of the oldest styles of wine out there, being a staple of Georgian winemaking for at least 6000 years. These wines are experiencing a small renaissance in wineries, boutique restaurants, and wine shops across the US, Northeastern Italy, and in some parts of France. If you are interested in more information about these fascinating and very distinctive wines check out this great website (Wine Folly). Good luck to the winemaking teams, and may the best wine win!

Orange Wine in Glass

Time Posted: Aug 17, 2016 at 8:42 AM Permalink to Winemaking Challenge 2016 Permalink
Don LaBorde - Paraduxx Winemaker

Cardiff, Assistant Winemaker

Cardiff has been with DWC for 10 yrs! He is a master of the cellar and is coming into his own as a standout winemaker. Cardiff spends most of his time giving direction in the cellar and helping interns figure out which way is up! When he's not at the winery, he and his wife Jenny are neglecting their rock climbing hobby to chase their 1 yr old sprinter around the house.

Assistant Winemaker Cardiff

Time Posted: Aug 15, 2016 at 2:41 PM Permalink to Cardiff, Assistant Winemaker Permalink
Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking


Rosé can be fairly tricky to get right, especially the color and texture. There are a couple different ways to make rosé wines, but we prefer to whole cluster press red grapes, and then ferment the juice as a white wine to preserve the fresh fruit aromatics. Being vigilant at the press is very important: if you squeeze too hard you can get excessive color and tannin, which can be bitter and astringent. This picture shows the difference in color between the free run portion and hard press of Pinot Noir, which we keep separate. That free run juice will make a beautiful wine for next spring!

Rose press

Time Posted: Aug 15, 2016 at 9:56 AM Permalink to Rosé Permalink
Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking


Our first fruit is in, and per usual, Semillon was the first in the gate. This noble varietal hails from Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sauvignon blanc in the white wines of Pessac Leognan and Entre Deux Mers. It is also used in the production of the botrysized sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. As pictured here with our new Duckhorn Vineyards Enologist Cayla Dee Porter, Semillon can produce large clusters bursting with juice. The Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc has historically been a blend of roughly 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon, though the exact percentages shift based on the vintage. Semillon brings a balancing mouthfeel and midpalate weight to the acidity and zip of Sauvignon Blanc.

Semillon first fruit

Time Posted: Aug 12, 2016 at 10:58 AM Permalink to Semillon Permalink
Neil Bernardi - Vice President, Winemaking

First Decoy Fruit

New Decoy Winemaker Tyson Wolf rings in the new vintage at our Decoy winemaking facility. Most of the team was there, including bottling, to toast with Goldeneye Sparkling Wine. These folks are an incredible team and will move mountains this harvest. Cheers to all your hard work in advance! And here we have Domingo Villa Leal dumping the very first bin of the season, with the rest of the all-star crew looking on. Note the beautiful Duncan Peak in the background!

Time Posted: Aug 11, 2016 at 2:19 PM Permalink to First Decoy Fruit Permalink
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