In the heart of Cabernet Sauvignon country, Duckhorn Vineyards began with a passion for Merlot. Yes, the 40+-year-old winery produces stellar Cab Sauv as well, but to founders, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn crafting ultra-premium Merlot was the focus from the start. When they released their first wines in 1978, they had equal amounts of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon cases as Merlot, with their Merlot coming from the prestigious Three Palms Vineyard in the far northeast side of Napa. The location is one of the warmest in the Valley, producing concentrated fruit with incredible richness and texture. In 1979 they produced their first Napa Valley Merlot that today still shines as one of the leading examples of a single varietal, regional wine in Napa Valley.
Just released, the Duckhorn 2017 Napa Valley Merlot ($56) is soft and lush, layered with crushed berries, ripe plum, red cherry, licorice, and a touch of dark chocolate. The wine has soft balanced tannins with a hint of astringency, with an appealing palate. Blending 16% Cabernet Sauvignon into the Merlot, along with a bit of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec adds a structured backbone to the silky, inviting wine.