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.
Our Favorite Summer Snacks & Wine Pairings
Rosé with Watermelon and Feta Salad
Watermelon is the quintessential summer food! It is crisp, refreshing, and delicious on a hot summer day. We are elevating this summer favorite with fresh mint and feta for a summer salad to pair with a chilled Rosé wine all day long. The watermelon brings out the sweet candy notes from the Rosé. Get the Recipe!
Try these pairings:
- Goldeneye Anderson Valley Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
- Paraduxx Napa Valley Rosé
- Decoy California Rosé
Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese and Artichoke Dip
Sauvignon Blanc white wine pairs nicely with goat cheese and artichokes so why not splurge on both dishes. Goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc are two peas in a pod. The acidity of this white wine cuts through the creaminess of the cheese. And there is nothing better than Artichoke Dip on a hot summer evening. The creamy, nutty, subtle sweetness from artichokes pairs beautifully with the crisp, refreshing citrus notes of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Check out the pairing video to see how we pair Sauvignon Blanc for Date night with Decoy!
Try these pairings:
- Decoy Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc
- Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Chardonnay with Mac & Cheese
It is cheesy, creamy, ooey gooey goodness! In our opinion Mac & Cheese is perfect food for any time of year. Here at Duckhorn Portfolio our Chardonnay is sourced from cool-climate regions across California to retain nice acidity and a cool refreshing crispness which will pair perfectly with the creaminess and silkiness of Mac & Cheese. Get the Recipe!
Try these pairings:
- Calera Mt. Harlan Chardonnay
- Decoy Sonoma County Chardonnay
- Migration Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay
Pinot Noir with Salmon-Truffled Pizza
One can never go wrong with a Pizza & Pinot pairing! Pinot Noir is a fun wine in that it really captures the essence of where it is grown. Stylistically it can range from fruity to earthy or spicy and it is great to pair with salmon and truffled cheese as it’s light-bodied and subtle so the food can take center stage! This is a great brunch recipe to share with family and friends or to enjoy on your own. Get the Recipe!
Try these pairings:
- Decoy California Pinot Noir
- Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir
- Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Merlot with Fig & Ham Flatbread
Nothing screams summer more than fruit! Summer is fig season in California. Merlot has gorgeous fruit-forward notes so not surprisingly, Merlot pairs fantastically with the savory ham and subtle fig sweetness on this flatbread. Elevate your pizza night with this delicious summer flatbread and Merlot wine pairing. Get the Recipe!
Try these pairings:
- Decoy Sonoma County Merlot
- Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot
- Duckhorn Vineyards Stout Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot
Cabernet Sauvignon with Beef Sliders
Grilling season is here and there is no pairing more classic than Cabernet with burgers. The beauty of sliders is that they can be served as an appetizer or even as a light meal during a hot summer day. Cabernet Sauvignon is big and bold with savory tannins which makes it the perfect wine pairing to stand up to red meat. Get the Recipe!
Try these pairings:
- Canvasback Red Mountain Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon
- Decoy California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Three Ways to Close a Bottle of Wine
With more time at home we have had more opportunity to be more contemplative. In that vein, we turn our attention to something not often considered; how do wine closures differ?
As you eagerly open a bottle of wine, you rarely pause to consider the humble bottle closure. If you did examine this packaging detail you would see that at the Duckhorn Portfolio we utilize a variety of closures intentionally chosen to best suit the specific wine. Think about the wine closure choice like this: You don’t need snow tires in the desert, meaning different wines enjoyed in different ways are benefited from different closures.
Across the Duckhorn Portfolio our bottles are closed with three options: full punch corks, Stelvin twist closures and Diam technological cork closures. Here are some details on why we use the closure we use.
Since the 1600s cork has been the closure material of choice. Cork stoppers are elastic, moisture-resistant, slow to deteriorate and they provide a waterproof seal. Natural cork is time-tested and proven to effectively protect wine from oxidation while allowing the optimum oxygen transfer needed for wine to mature gracefully in the bottle.
Like other cork products, natural wine corks are derived from the bark of cork oak trees (Quercus suber). The bark is carefully peeled away and cut into sheets before processing. Harvesting bark does not require the tree to be cut down. Portugal is the world’s largest producer of corks followed by Spain, Italy, and Algeria. A Cork Oak is planted at Duckhorn Vineyards near the guest parking lot. Look closely at the tree next time you visit Duckhorn Vineyards. It’s easy to imagine wine corks being punched from the spongy bark. We cork finish wines that our customers are most likely to cellar.
In the last 10 years we researched the effectiveness and benefits of Stelvin Twist Closures. We liked what we learned and began incrementally closing some of our wines under Stelvin. Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was moved from a cork to a Stelvin in the 2015 vintage. These high quality, plastic lined twist caps make a near perfect seal with the bottle, essentially eliminating bottle variation. Additionally, Stelvin closures are easy to open and easily resealable. You will find a Stelvin twist closures on Canvasback Riesling, all 375ml bottles (AKA “Little Ducklings), Decoy white wines and on all our Rosé wines. A Stelvin is the best closure option for wines meant to be consumed within a year or two of bottling.
The third closure used on Duckhorn Portfolio wines is the Diam technological cork. Made using traditional cork, Diam seeks to eliminate the issue of wine being spoiled by tainted corks. Diam provides winemakers with a high level of consistency in aging from year to year, all while maintaining all the traditions of a natural cork.
Diam purchases raw cork straight from the producers, breaks it down into tiny particles, and runs it through their patented cleaning process eliminating the pesky TCA compound that can cling to cork and spoil a bottle of wine. After cleaning, the TCA-free cork particles are bound together using another patented technology. Diam corks carry their logo on them and can be found in Decoy Red Wines. We continue to investigate the use of Diam corks and other improvements to packaging in our mission to provide you with world class wine and excellent customer experiences.
What to Expect During Your Next Trip To Wine Country
You know that hospitality you’ve come to know, love and expect when you visit wine country? It’s still here.
Your health and safety of both guests and the Duckhorn Portfolio team is of the utmost importance. The Napa Valley Vintners and the California Wine Institute among others, continue to provide us with numerous training resources to ensure we are utilizing the best sanitation and self-distance practices.
- We require that you wear a face covering at all times except while seated at your table. Our staff will have masks on as well, and we promise we’re smiling under them!
- We’re practicing Social Distancing. Our indoor and outdoor tasting spaces have been modified so that we can safely maintain a 6ft radius.
- Prior to your tasting, we’ll greet you just outside the tasting room & ask you to please complete a liability waiver for your party. This seems to be the “new normal” for the time being. Thank you for being patient with us as we learn and evolve!
- All of our California wine tastings will happen outdoors. We have beautiful landscapes and vineyard views to add to the ambience.
- Many tasting rooms, including our Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Calera and Canvasback properties are accepting credit or debit payments only at this time, so no need to stop at the ATM on your way into town.
- Some restaurants are reopening with socially distant protocol in place. Your favorite spot might have fewer tables than before, as restaurateurs keep their employees and customers’ health top of mind. Now more than ever we recommend contacting restaurants in advance to place a reservation.
- Planning a day trip? No time to taste? Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx and Canvasback are offering touchless curbside pick-up! Place an order in advance online and we will meet you outside with your wine.
If you have questions prior to making your wine tasting reservations, our knowledgeable customer service team is happy to hear from you. Call (866) 367-9945 or email us any time M-F from 8am-5pm PT.
What is Wine?
As Earth Day approaches (April 22nd) and the beauty of spring in the Northern Hemisphere reveals itself in sunny splendor, it is a perfect time to reflect on wine and it’s relationship to nature, both that of the earth and our own humanity.
From time immemorial wine has been a beverage from nature, seen as an incalculably powerful gift from the gods to cure sickness and ease suffering. As part of western civilization for many thousands of years, wine was believed to be the ultimate health food, with cleansing and restorative properties, the ability to store calories through winter, and lighten heavy hearts. Technically, wine is a mixture of water, ethanol, anthocyanins, tannin, organic acids, volatile aroma compounds, mannoproteins, and polysaccharides.
More simply and more poetically, it is pure sunshine and water, the product of long sunny days in the vineyard. Wine is a pure expression of the land, reflecting the very nature of the soil and sun, the best examples being without adulteration or impurity. Interestingly, modern wine is perhaps a purer product than it was thousands of years ago, as advanced techniques, an understanding of microbiology, and refrigeration have allowed winemakers to preserve the delicate aromas and flavors of the grapes. Most wine prior to the middle ages was mixed with water, herbs, or even lead to mask the aromas of fermentations gone astray. As early buds emerge from dormant gnarled vines it is easy to see the natural beauty and wonder of these incredible plants that are so lovingly tended (in a safe and socially distant manner) by our dedicated vineyard teams.
For millennia, wine has also played an important part in defining our human culture, from the epic story of Gilgamesh, the Bacchanalian rituals of ancient Greece, to the absolutive traditions of Christianity, and in many cultures in between. In more everyday terms, wine plays a critical role in the quotidian ritual of breaking bread with family and friends. Given the current state of isolation of our world, many are missing that critical connection which humans crave. Wine as a connector, a lifter of hearts, and a symbol of togetherness and good times shared, is now more important than ever as we set our collective sights on better days ahead. If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us to slow down and appreciate the wondrously mundane things in our lives: a brilliantly sunny day, our glorious natural world, and a glass of wine (shop here!) shared with friends and family, even if only via Zoom - Click here for wine country zoom backgrounds.
Bring Wine Country to Zoom with our Virtual Backgrounds
Wow your coworkers and virtual happy hour friends as you WFH (#WineFromHome) in style with wine country backgrounds! We're bringing the beauty of wine country to your at-home work station with views of some of our most picturesque winery estate vineyards, wine caves, and outdoor wine tasting spaces. So while you may not be able to join us in the tasting room or stroll our vineyards right now, you can download one of our wine country images below and WFH with a view!
How to add your wine country background on Zoom:
- Uncork your favorite bottle of wine. Running low? We can help you restock - shop here!
- Grab a glass, and and give yourself a pour.
- Scroll through the images below, select one and save to your desktop.
- Now head over to Zoom and log in (click here for a Zoom how-to video if you need a little help)
- Click the gear icon in the right-upper corner.
- Then click “virtual background” from the side bar on the left
- Next, click the plus-sign to upload the image. You are now in wine country!
- Finally, take a sip from your glass, you earned it
To help our team stay connected while working from home, we’ve added a 'fun fact' to share at the beginning of our virtual meetings. It can be anything – it acts as a little ice breaker to get everyone comfortable, especially for those early morning calls. We've equipped each image below with a little story to go with it, for any other groups doing the same!
From our flock to yours, please stay safe and stay home when possible. Cheers to at-home sips!
Go To: Duckhorn Vineyards | Paraduxx | Goldeneye | Canvasback | Calera
Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena was founded in 1976 by Dan & Margaret Duckhorn. They started with 800 cases of Napa Valley Merlot and 800 cases of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon!
Three Palms Vineyard is an iconic site for new world Merlot! In fact, the 2014 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms Vineyard earned Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of the Year.
This Mallard Duck fountain was constructed with stones from every Duckhorn Estate Vinyeard. It commemorates our 35th harvest celebration!
Our Duckhorn Vineyards veranda overlooks Marlee’s Garden, which is named after Margaret Duckhorn and is the perfect setting for wine tasting with a wine country view.
Paraduxx is our Napa Valley winery just south of Duckhorn Vineyards. and is dedicated to making Napa Valley blends inspired by the iconic blends of the world!
Nestled in the Mendocino Coast, Goldeneye crafts terroir-driven Pinot Noir.
Canvasback’s Longwinds Vineyard is planted to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on Red Mountain, which is the smallest AVA in Washington State with 2,225 planted acres.
Calera considered a pioneer in new world Pinot Noir! Our gravity-flow winery features and underground wine cave home to barrels of aging Pinot.
Navigating the Wine Aisle with Confidence
Let’s face it, the wine aisle can be an intimidating space. Here are a few tips to help you navigate it with confidence!
Tip 1: Get the lay of the land
Whether you are at your local wine shop, or a larger chain grocery store, there is some sort of method to their madness when it comes to organization. Understanding how things are shelved makes paring down your options a bit easier. Often you will see the wine section separated by origin; US vs Imported (French wines, Italian wines, California wines, etc.), followed by varietal (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blends, etc.).
Tip 2: Determine The Occasion
Whether you’re enjoying an anniversary dinner, laying low on girls’ night or just celebrating Tuesday, figuring out what the evening entails always helps me decide what to take home.
Tip 3: With or Without Food
The next question I like to ask myself is, “am I going to be enjoying my wine with, or without food?” A good rule of thumb is that when enjoying wine alongside food, the intensity of the wine should match the intensity of the food. Then I like to discern if I am in the mood for a slightly chilled white wine, or a red. Check out our recipe pairings for more ideas.
Tip 4: Look For Something Familiar - Then Maybe Branch Out
A great way to confidently branch out is to reach for other wines that are in the portfolio of a winery which you know and love. Strong collections such as The Duckhorn Portfolio benefit from world class winemakers who collaborate. Although each of our wineries has its own dedicated winemaker, they benefit from working with one another. Wineries with an established pedigree also have access to high quality fruit, which should instill confidence that you’ll end up selecting something you love. For example, if you really like our Migration Pinot Noir, our Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs might be something you would like as well as Katey Larwood, our Goldeneye winemaker, and Dana Epperson, our Migration winemaker, frequently talk shop!
Tip 5: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Have a question? Ask the wine purveyor at your local wine shop, or consult your phone for trusted wine blogs, publications or apps with scores to get a handle for what others have liked or not liked as much.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is not whether you made a sommelier level pairing, but if you enjoy the wine with the ones you are sharing it with! Interested in bringing home a few bottles of our wines? Use the wine finder tool to locate our wines in your neighborhood.
Inside the Lab: Vineyard Maturity Assessment
A very critical aspect in preparation for harvest is vineyard maturity assessment. Sure, we need to sanitize every piece of crush equipment, prep and start up presses...the list goes on. But what about the grapes? How do we know when a vineyard is ready to harvest? Throughout the harvest season, our Estate and Grower Relations teams leave the winery at 6 a.m. and head to the vineyards. Our vineyard teams sample every vineyard block and pick roughly 20-30 clusters from each block- this gives us an accurate representation of the entire vineyard as a whole. Each block is sampled at least once per week, and more frequently as berries ripen. Once all samples are collected and all vineyards have been scouted, the samples are then brought to the lab at the winery. From here, the vineyard samples are weighed, crushed and analyzed by our lab team. The lab processes anywhere from 25-50 grape samples everyday- talk about an arm workout!
For each sample that is brought into the lab, we measure:
Brix is a measure of sugar content in a given juice sample and is measured via a refractometer. A refractometer works by measuring the refraction of light as it passes through a sugary solution. pH and titratable acidity, commonly referred to as TA, are both measurements for acidity. In short, TA measures the amount of acid in the sample, whereas pH measures the strength of the acid. Both are measured via an auto-titrator. We aim for low pH/high acid numbers in our juice/wine. High pH values can lead to wines that are biologically unstable; low TA numbers present flabby wines with no flavor. The low pH and high acid levels will contribute to the flavors, aromas and mouthfeel of the juice and eventually, wine. Our final step of this lengthy assessment is sensory analysis. Once the chemical analyses have been run, our lab technicians analyze the data for any trends or outliers. Flavor is the biggest factor when it comes to picking decisions. The numbers can be spot on, but if a juice sample tastes under-ripe, our winemaker will choose to continue sampling the block instead of harvesting it.
Wines of the World
The Napa Valley is a particularly famous wine region for its rare climate patterns and rich volcanic-infused soils. However, the Old World remains one of the most well-known and greatest producers of wine – known for their history of finding soils just right for certain grape varietals. At Paraduxx, we strive to do just that, which is why many parallels can be drawn between our own vineyards and other major wine appellations across the world.
Malbec is one of the five noble grapes originating from Bordeaux, France. In recent years, the grape has found incredible success in the New World. The Mendoza region of Argentina has brought this grape to the main stage highlighting the fruit-forward, plummy, velvety notes of Malbec. In fact, 75% of the region is planted to Malbec. Inspired by this style, Paraduxx crafts a Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend that pays homage to the Argentinian Malbec. Our Cork Tree vineyard, when compared to the Mendoza region, is a similarly cooler area that has a sloped terrain allowing for maximum sunlight on the grapes in the afternoons, and cooler nights.
The Rhone valley is particularly famous for producing a variety of incredible wines. In the north, the Côte Rôtie region is home to a Syrah that is bold and spicy, resembling the kind of grapes used to produce our Co-Ferment wine at Paraduxx. The grapes planted on our Candlestick vineyard help to produce a bit of a different wine, with a New World twist. Grenache is blended with the Syrah grapes from Candlestick as this red wine pulls inspiration from Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The Tuscany region and Sangiovese are synonymous. In the early 1970’s renegade winemakers in Tuscany began blending their native grape, Sangiovese with non-native grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This progressive winemaking style became know as Super-Tuscan. At Paraduxx, we craft a Napa version of the Italian Super-Tuscan, blending our native Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese from Atlas Peak. The high elevation and cool temperatures on Atlas Peak allow for slow, even ripening and results in a dynamic wine that exudes lavender, strawberry and forest floor.
Australian Cabernet-Shiraz Blend
While the names themselves might be different, Syrah and Shiraz actually refer to the same grape. Australians wanted to pay homage to the land that the Syrah grape came from, a city in Persia called Shiraz, now situated in present day Iran. The Southern Australian Shiraz grape is stylistically different than its French counterpart, no doubt due to the climate and history of the vines. Classic Shiraz has a deep, smoky and meaty flavor as well as hints of blackberry. The Southern Australian Shiraz is known for being quite earthy, while the Californian equivalent Syrah has similar blackberry aromas, also adding firm mountain tannins. Both the Paraduxx Howell Mountain blend, as well as Australian blends use Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the difference in latitudes between Southern Australia and Northern California, the climate is quite akin in the respective seasons, helping the wines create parallel experiences.
From Vine to Bottle: The Art and Science Behind Winemaking
How is wine made? This post takes a closer look at the twelve steps involved to take each harvest from vine to bottle. Every bottle of wine on a shelf at the store went through a serious process to get there. As consumers, we might not always know about these processes, but it is important that we recognize the passion and hard-work that went into crafting our wines. Winemaking is often described as the clash between science and art – winemakers must know the chemistry behind the wine as well as have the creativity and artistic nature to create a wine that reflects the palate of the company. Here are 12 steps that summarize the yearlong process of winemaking that happens before you get to enjoy the wine! From the growth season and crucial maintance of the grapevines to post-harvest processes like fermentation, fining, yeast, barrel regime and testing - the process is quite a journey. Once made, the final steps of bottling, packaging and shipping become the equally important finishing touches to make sure wines end up in wine glasses nationwide. So next time you are taking a sip of any of Duckhorn Porfolio’s delicious wines, keep in mind the many hands it took to get into your hands.
Dog Friendly Wineries in Wine Country
It’s easy to love both dogs and wine, though many times to enjoy both you’ll be sipping at home. Today more and more wineries are allowing some outdoor seating to accommodate well-behaved pups. This post is dedicated to each of our dog-friendly winery locations that welcome our four-legged friends!
Goldeneye, Anderson Valley
At Goldeneye, we have an incredible outdoor patio area that allows us to cater to dogs and their owners in the beauty of the Anderson Valley. While guests enjoy the view of our Confluence vineyard backdrop and a flight of Pinot Noir, their furry companions are welcome to endless bowls of water and all of the same sights and smells of the Mendocino coast. Goldeneye welcomes all well-behaved dogs on leash on our outdoor patio – there are leashes available for purchase in the tasting room for anyone who wants a keepsake too! Here are a few pics of our own winery dogs, Sam and Sheamus:
Paraduxx, Napa Valley
At Paraduxx, our outdoor courtyard is nestled next to Rector Creek vineyard that allows guests a relaxing outdoor experience with a quintessential wine country view. This space is where we’re able to host wine lovers and their dogs in our lovely Napa Valley location. While guests enjoy the serenity of the vineyards and a lineup of Napa Valley Blends, their dogs are welcome to lots of water and lounging in the comfort of the peaceful shade of the courtyard. Paraduxx welcomes all well-behaved dogs on leash in our outdoor space – there are also logo’d leashes available for purchase in the tasting room! Check out our ambassador winery dog, Lando at Paraduxx:
At Calera, we are nestled on Mt. Harlan with sweeping views of the Cienega Valley. The wonderful outdoor space with amazing views, allow us to cater to dogs and their owners at our winery estate. While guests enjoy the view and a flight of Pinot Noir, dogs are welcome to enjoy water and the relaxing outdoors of the Hollister Hills. Calera welcomes all well-behaved dogs on leash in our outdoor space. Say hi to our ambassador winery dog, Nina at Calera:
All of these locations are perfect to consider when choosing a dog-friendly winery for your next wine tasting!