When it was founded, 30 years ago, Duckhorn, based in Napa, California, initially focused on Bordeaux varietals, with specific attention on Merlot. Today, the winery produces a wide range of reds, whites, and blends, with grapes sourced not only from Napa, but from neighboring Sonoma Valley as well.
Wine dinners are always interesting events. Each restaurant has their own thoughts on how it should be done, and no two are alike. Many places pour wine freely, while others limit you to an ounce or two (boo). Some establishments change their format from time to time (which can be so annoying when you like their previous format and set your expectations!). The social aspect is also always up for grabs. If you are not with a group, you never know who will be seated near/next to you. I have sat next to novices, who were much more knowledgeable than I. I have sat with novices, who were self-proclaimed experts (but were obviously not). I have sat with experts, who were very willing to educate those around them. I have sat with connoisseurs, who did not care to share their thoughts (but they usually do by the end of the evening!). Essentially, it is a wild card, but the event (read: the wine) is always interesting.
Overall, Salt Creek Grille did a good job with the evening.
First up was the 2010 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc Napa. This wine was 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. It was aged in French oak for 5 months and had a listed ABV of 13.5%. As I sipped this glass, one thing that kept coming to mind was buttery. It was paired with appetizers consisting of bruschetta, and cucumber topped with raw tuna and a horseradish cream. While the wine went well with the tuna, it didn’t pair very well with the bruschetta. The wine retails in the $27 range. It was an okay Sauvignon Blanc, I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again.
Next up was the 2010 Migration Chardonnay Russian River. This wine was 100% Chardonnay and was aged in French oak (35% new, 65% old) for 10 months. The listed ABV was 14.1%. Typically, I do not favor Chardonnays, but I did enjoy this glass. I was so unsure if I liked the wine, I requested a second glass (it was as good as the first). I found pear, almond, and vanilla on the palate. The chef paired this wine with a Grilled Teriyaki Glazed Salmon and Pineapple Satay, served beside lightly dressed Micro Greens. The salmon dish was terrific and really complimented the Chardonnay. The 2010 Migration Chardonnay Russian River sells for $30. I would recommend any Chardonnay followers give it a try.
Our third selection from Duckhorn was the 2009 Migration Pinot Noir Anderson Valley. This wine was 100% Pinot Noir, aged in French oak (45% new, 55% old) for 10 months, and carried an ABV of 14.5%. I found this to be a mediocre Pinot Noir. The chef paired this wine with Sundried Tomato Ravioli stufed with Smoked Gouda, topped with a Basil Pesto and Sauteed Leeks. This was the one dish where I did not see a fit between wine and food. The ravioli was tasty, but the pesto was a bit overpowering for the Pinot Noir. A cheese dish yes, but not with garlic and leeks, and smoked gouda. The wine was okay. I would serve it as a house wine for a large party, but there wasn’t anything overly special about it. Retailing for $34, there are better options available to wine consumers.
The next sampling was the 2009 Duckhorn Merlot Napa. This wine was a red blend composed of 84% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged for 15 months in French oak (25% new, 75% old) and had a listed ABV of 14.5%. From the nose alone, strong black fruit and vanilla, I could tell this was going to be the best wine of the night. Black and red fruit were distinct on the palate. The wine was full bodied for a Merlot. The Cabernet blends definitely added to the mouth feel as well as the flavor. The wine had a nice medium finish. For this selection, the chef chose Coffee Encrusted New Zealand Rack of Lamb, accompanied by Zuchini Gorgonzola Risotto, and White Asparagus. When it comes to meat, lamb is not one of my first choices, but this entree went superbly with the wine. This Merlot would go great with any grilled or roasted meat or fowl. The 2009 Duckhorn Merlot Napa retails in the $52 range. I would recommend this wine to anyone who has not tried it.
To end the evening, Duckhorn provided “The Chocolate Cellar” (not available retail). It was a red blend from multiple varietals, infused with dark chocolate. I do not care for dessert wines, but if you do, this one is for you. It was almost like a chocolate port wine. Quite delicious, but too sweet for my palate.
Overall, it was an evening of interesting food, interesting wine, and interesting company (that is the subject for a whole other blog).
Until the next time,