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Duckhorn Merlot: The Full Expression

Posted on: November 18th, 2019 by Tom Peiffer No Comments

Now here’s an example of a red wine that really typifies the character of many 2016 Northern California reds. It is the Duckhorn Wine Company’s 2016 Merlot. Because it is a recent release, it is in many bottle shops and large stores, like Total Wine ($40).

Duckhorn Merlot

During the 2016 growing season, there was a lot of spring rain, marking the end of a serious drought in the region. It was then hot and dry, followed by cool, making it toasty for mid-summer visitors, but great to harvest. However, for the grapes, it brought on a wonderful fullness and high-yield crops.

Many wonderful wines from that year went on to be enchanting and complex, making the Merlots rich like Cabernets. In fact, the Merlots were so rich that some producers stopped blending them as a “lighten up” component in their red wines. However, Duckhorn has seen fit to keep on offering Merlots as mostly pure (less than a quarter Cabernet blended in), adding to the strength of their lineup.

These big boys have a nice following who have been buying more Merlot than Cabernet for the 2016 vintage and choosing to rack them to savor over the next 5-10 years. So far, this is working out well because most of their strength remains undiminished since the initial winery release.

Duckhorn’s 2016 Napa Valley Merlot features a memorable bouquet with cool blackberry, vanilla spice, a little currant, licorice, and clove. This leads into a complex entry like a Cabernet, but with a burst of lighter fruit like ripe strawberry, followed by pepper and spices.

This is now a prime demonstration, or benchmark, of what the 2016 season did for many of the area’s wines. There was a return to the more “typical of Napa” flavors, but with an interesting array of spices. So many of them are also perfect examples of wines that will become much more complex as the fruit mellows with age.

For some fun, do a vertical with Duckhorn’s 2015 & 2016 Napa Merlots (grown in different rainfall conditions) and decide what the varied weather situation did to the product. You should notice a lot of difference in the fruit component between the two Merlots.

Pair it with French dip, coleslaw, and green beans. Serving with a traditional French beef sandwich is the best bet for this bold duck.

About the Author - Tom Peiffer

Tom has been an avid wine consumer and collector for over 20 years. This pastime has taken he and his family on many visits to wine growing regions, including Arizona. During these excursions, with the accompanying tastings and lectures, it became clear that there is no "magic bullet" wine. For each wine contains its own character, strong points, and weaknesses. Sharing these experiences to help anyone purchase locally available wines is his goal.

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