Winemaking Blog

Posts written by Neil Bernardi, Duckhorn Wine Company's 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.

Morgan Beard
 
September 13, 2018 | Morgan Beard

Lifecycle of a Grape Vine

Every bottle of wine has a story to tell, and that story begins in the vineyard. With each vintage, the unique interaction between terroir, climate, and weather dictate the narrative of each bottle. So, in this blog we will examine the lifecycle of the grape vine, the ultimate wine author.

Bud Break

budbreak

Come spring the vines reawaken from dormancy. From March to April the vines experience bud burst. From these buds, green leaves burst awake in preparation for photosynthesis with the warmer months. Bud break is a delicate time, as the new growth is in danger of spring frost and hail storms.

Flowering

Bloom

As bud break turns into vegetative growth, the next process of the grape vine begins from April to May. Flowering is when bunches of tiny flowers bloom from the new vine shoots. Grape vines are self-pollinating, so each of these flowers has the potential to turn into a single berry.

Fruit Set

Fruit Set

As the summer months set in, the pollinated flower drops its petals and tiny green grape berry clusters with seeds develop at the end of the stem. Although, not every flower is fertilized into a berry, so it simply falls off the vine. The fruit set stage of the grape vine is critical, as it becomes the initial indicator of the potential crop yield in harvest.

Verasion

Verasion

Come mid-summer, the green berry clusters begin to expose their color pigmentation. Verasion is the process in which the berry clusters begin ripening and turning purple or blueish in color. The heat of summer induces sugar development and ripening in each grape, while the cool evenings (depending on growing region) preserve natural acidity and freshness.

Harvest

Ridgeline

From September to November, for winemakers, viticulturists and wine country visitors, this is the most exciting time of the wine growing season! There is a palpable buzz and energy as winemakers’ taste, test, and measure brix, or sugar content, and determine when the grapes are ready to be picked. Harvest is when the grapes have reached optimal ripeness and are ready to tell the story of the vintage.

Dormancy

Pruning

After the seasons fruit has been collected during harvest, all fall leaf foliage falls to the soils and the vines go dormant. During this time, viticulturists are diligently pruning each vine in an effort to guide vine growth for next season. After four months of rest, the grape vine repeats this process effectively growing and telling the story of another season.

Harvest is the best season to visit wine country! The vines are lush with green foliage and plush purple grape clusters create the most picturesque visit. Our annual Paraduxx X2 Release Harvest Party commences on Saturday, September 29th, so come join us in uncorking the new Paraduxx releases and participate in the harvest activities with a grape stomping competition!

Time Posted: Sep 13, 2018 at 2:19 PM
Morgan Beard
 
July 27, 2018 | Morgan Beard

How to Enjoy Large-Format Wine Bottles

Large Format Wine Bottles

Uncorking a large-format wine bottle is exciting and ceremonious! These bottles are rare in comparison to the standardized 750ml bottles, and they make for a practical investment. Large-format bottles are perfect for your cellar as they age more gracefully and make for impressive centerpieces during special gatherings. In this blog we are going to explore the evolution and benefits of large format wine bottles.

The Evolution of Wine bottles

It is believed that the ancient Romans, used glass blowing to create wine bottles. Yet, this glass was too delicate to store the wine, so they used amphoras, large clay pots, for wine transport and storage. The glass bottles they created were typically used as a decanter for dinners. In the 1700’s, coal-burning furnaces allowed for higher heat and allowed glass blowers to create thicker and darker glass. The production of the cork closure came shortly after and with that changes in wine bottle shape and size began to take form. It was discovered that the larger the bottle, the slower and more gracefully it ages. In, 1979, the United States deemed the 750ml the standardized wine bottle size, and the European Union followed suit, in order to ease trade.

Collecting Large-Formats for your Cellar

Large-format wine bottles make the perfect addition to your cellar due to their age-ability. The aging and oxidation process in a large-format bottle occurs more slowly, than the standardized 750ml, creating a wine with an enhanced flavor profile. With age the tannins soften, and the wine begins to express secondary and tertiary aromas creating a more complex wine.

So, the larger the bottle, the more age-ability. This is because the ullage, or oxygen sealed in each bottle of wine is the same despite differing bottle sizes. With larger formats, there is a larger volume of liquid interacting with that oxygen. In addition, large-formats are more resistant to drastic temperature variations and light damage due to the higher volume of liquid. For those interested in making practical wine investments, large-format bottles are your best option for cellaring and aging.

Celebrating with a Large-Format

Social gatherings are the perfect occasion for uncorking a large-format! Whether it’s for a holiday dinner, a family get-together, wedding or graduation, a large-format is sure to impress. Opening large-formats can take a little practice. So, we assembled a few suggestions:

  • Carefully, cut the wax off a large-format same as you would on a standard bottle with foil. Your cork screw knife should work great or even a serrated knife. Peel away the wax and be careful not to get any in the bottle.
  • If you are opening an older vintage wine, the ah-so wine opener is perfect solution. Vintage corks are delicate and the last thing you want is to destroy your large-formats cork. We suggest adding a neutral oil to the prongs to easily glide into the bottle neck and be cautious not to push the cork in. Simply twist and pull to cleanly extract the cork.
  • Once, you have uncorked your large-format, wipe away any sediment in the neck and decant your wine. Pouring from a large-format can be cumbersome, so the decanter is great way to ceremoniously present the wine while allowing the sediment to sit in the bottle and not your glass while at-the-same-time aerating the wine.

Within the Duckhorn Portfolio, we offer a selection of magnums and double-magnums for your next celebration or cellar. Shop online here and enjoy!

Time Posted: Jul 27, 2018 at 3:40 PM
Morgan Beard
 
January 10, 2018 | Morgan Beard

The Story Behind Duckhorn Portfolio’s Pinnacle Wines

Forty years ago, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn along with their winemaker had a passionate discussion at the dinner table about making a cuvée, or the finest red blend. Instead, they chose to focus on varietal wines, yet Duckhorn Vineyards had remained intrigued by the artful blend of a cuvée. In 2006, that dinner discussion from 30 years ago came to fruition; Duckhorn Vineyards released their first cuvée or pinnacle wine aptly named, The Discussion.

Today, within the Duckhorn Portfolio, there are four Pinnacle wine offerings from four of our seven wineries, Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx, Goldeneye and Canvasback. These wines are 100% estate grown and celebrate our best blocks from our top estate vineyards.

Our four pinnacle wines are distinctly different and capture the essence of each winery and region. The Discussion from Duckhorn Vineyards is classic and elegant embodying the best of Napa Valley Bordeaux varietals. Paraduxx X2 stylishly blends mountain fruit and valley floor fruit, beautifully demonstrating the subtle art of the blend. Our pinnacle Pinot Noir, Ten Degrees, from Goldeneye is complex, earthy and rustic, perfectly capturing the natural intensity of Anderson Valley. The Grand Passage is concentrated and complex, beautifully embodying the desert-like climate of Red Mountain in Washington State. All four of these wines are ready to drink now and ideal for aging in your cellar for 10 to 15 years.

Duckhorn Vineyards The Discussion

The Discussion commemorates a longstanding dream of Dan and Margaret Duckhorn’s. The primary blend is always Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, representing our belief in the timeless union of these two noble Bordeaux varietals. The Discussion embodies the depth and complexity of Duckhorn Vineyards renowned estate program, resulting in an elegant wine with pure fruit flavors combined with silky tannins and savory notes.

92 Points - Wine & Spirits

Paraduxx X2

X2 is crafted as an exponential expression and harmonization of our Paraduxx style and the pinnacle of our portfolio. Paraduxx X2 is a blend of our best blocks and barrels selected from our finest estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel producing a wine that balances depth and structure of mountain grapes with the lush vibrancy of valley floor fruit.

Buy Now

Goldeneye Ten Degrees

Made from our ten finest barrels of Pinot Noir, we name this special wine Ten Degrees – a name that pays homage to the fact that our three estate vineyards in Anderson Valley display as much as a 10 degree temperature variance, while spanning only an eight-mile distance. As the pinnacle wine of our portfolio, Ten Degrees combines our best estate vineyard grapes and showcases the elegance, beauty and rustic characteristics of the Anderson Valley.

94 Points - Wine Enthusiast

Canvasback Grand Passage

With access to some of the best vineyards in Red Mountain, Canvasback was able to craft Grand Passage, the pinnacle of our winemaking program. The Grand Passage is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, it embodies the finest blocks and barrels of each vintage to create a beautifully layered wine with ripe voluminous dark fruits rounded with notes of mocha and salted caramel and polished tannins. This is a Cabernet lovers’ prefect wine!

93 Points - Wine & Spirits

Time Posted: Jan 10, 2018 at 5:00 PM
Morgan Beard
 
August 24, 2017 | Morgan Beard

Chatting with Decoy Winemaker, Tyson Wolf

Each harvest season is a blank canvas and the winemaker is given the opportunity to paint the perfect vintage! As Decoy begins its twenty-second harvest, I sat down with Winemaker Tyson Wolf to discuss the 2017 vintage.

Ridgeline Vineyard in Alexander Valley

With the heavy rains this year, the question on everyone’s mind is how is the vintage looking? Our winemaker says the grapes are superb, with his first pick being of Sauvignon Blanc from the Alexander Valley. Fortunately, August has seen consistently warm weather which is balancing out the moisture brought on by California’s out-of-character rainy season. The excitement of Harvest is visible throughout Sonoma wine country!

Tyson in the Vineyards

Harvest is a culmination of the year’s climate and local geology, bearing fruit that is evocative of a place. According to Tyson, Harvest is the most important part of the winemaking process, setting a tone for the entire year of winemaking. It all starts with picking the grapes! Knowing when to pick each block of grapes is a skill. For Tyson, grape picking involves an analysis of not just the grapes chemistry but also of its flavor profile as well as an evaluation of how the flavor will continue to develop. It involves having the foresight to taste a single grape and understand how that grape will translate to the finished product, in the bottle!

Blend Tasting

Tyson's personal challenge every year is to make each vintage better. He and his team frequently taste the past two vintages and decide how to tweak the wines to achieve the ideal translation of the given varietal. For instance, Tyson is most excited to play with the second vintage of Decoy Rosé and add more Syrah to create a brighter, crisp Rosé with exotic fruit notes. From the picking of the grape, to the blend and barrel regime, winemaking most certainly is a labor of love.

Decoy wines aim to translate a sense of place, transporting the wine taster to Sonoma County and imparting a tasting experience that is much more than just the fruit, oak, and spice. Tyson says part of the fun of growing and making wines in Sonoma County is the diversity of climates. The Pacific Ocean offers a marine influence with cool coastal winds and morning fog while another microclimate exists that is warm, dry and mountainous. Sonoma County is unique in that it is able to communicate a variety of terroirs!

Cheers to the 2017 vintage and to a successful Harvest!

Time Posted: Aug 24, 2017 at 6:00 PM