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Duckhorn Extravaganza

In July of 2000, we hosted a wine tasting party for ten of our friends featuring a vertical tasting of various Duckhorn Merlot bottles from the late 1980s. The bottles were opened roughly thirty minutes before tasting; they were not decanted.

To add some mystery to the occasion, the wines were tasted blind. As we summarized our thoughts, it was clear that the wines were similar -- which should be no surprise because, after all, they were all over ten years old and all made by the same winemaker. As noted in the quick summary below, there was not overwhelming favorite among the bottles we opened but there was a collective tilt towards the 1986 Three Palms.

Vintage & Vineyard Favorite Least Favorite Comments
1987 Napa Valley 1 4 A bit closed at first but, as the evening progressed, it opened up with tastes of fresh plums and fresh fruit. Finish was rather short.
1988 Napa Valley 4 2 Some notes of oak and chalk with fairly heavy tannins.
1986 Three Palms 4 0 Slightly tart with significant tannins remaining. A long, long finish with notes of cherry and chicory resulted in this being the consensus favorite.
1987 Three Palms 1 3 Slightly tart with hints of spice (esp. pepper and cinnamon) remaining on the finish.
1989 Napa Valley 2 2 Described as chewy and earthy with notes of blackberry and licorice.

In order to truly put our tasting acumen to the test, we handed out tasting notes from the most recent vertical wine tastings held at Duckhorn winery. Everyone compared their own notes with the 'official' wine tasting notes and then tried to guess which 'blind' bottle was the one in the notes. One member of our group correctly guessed three of the bottles, several others guessed two correctly, and everyone else (except one poor soul) guessed one bottle right. This was particularly challenging because the wines were so similar.

Following the actual tasting of the Duckhorn merlots, we continued to drink from the various bottles through dinner. The menu:

bulletAppetizers: Crostini with roasted red peppers
bulletGreen salad with light vinaigrette
bulletGrilled lamb with a red wine sauce
bulletGrilled asparagus
bulletOrzo with sauteed red pepper
bulletLemon tart with raspberries

Generally, we noticed some improvement in the wines as we moved through dinner although the comments and favorites didn't change substantially. We also opened second bottles of each and, for what it's worth, we noticed some differences between the bottles.



For more information on how to enjoy wine tastings, check out these books:

How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson The Wine-Tasting Class Notebook: Expertise in 12 Tastings by Judy Ridgway


Other Wine Tastings

bulletDuckhorn Vertical from the 1980s
bulletWines from the Southern Rhone
bulletRed Wines of Piedmont
bulletMature California Cabernets -- 1990 and older
bulletCalifornia cabernet maturity comparisons
bulletSouth American Red Wines
bullet Red Wines of Washington State
bullet Anything with Sangiovese

Click here to give us some ideas!



Wine Enthusiast - Ultimate wine accessories site! The Wine Enthusiast is a great source of glassware, serving and preservation systems, in addition to self-contained wine cellars and other wine storage options. If you're not sure what you need, the company offers a list of 'Recommended' items that cover a wide range of needs through their home page.

Wine glasses, decanters and more: Many choices are available including Riedel and Spiegelau crystal stemware and decanters. Plus, there are many products to clean and care for your glassware.   


Serving and preserve your wine, from the most elegant decanters to chillers, coasters, drip savers and more. When we want wine by the glass (when we don't think we'll finish a bottle), we use the WineKeeper which automatically fills the bottle with nitrogen to preserve the wine.
Corkscrews Corkscrews and cork pullers are essential tools. Wine Enthusiast has a wide variety of devices including the traditional Laguiole corkscrew to the smooth Rabbit Corkscrew leverpull types. Storing your wine doesn't have to be difficult. Wine Enthusiast offers everything from free standing wine cellars to wine racks and cooling systems that can be installed in a closet or a corner of the basement.   
Finally, for great deals, don't forget to check out the clearance items and the Wine Cellar Outlet Store areas.


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