Co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards has spent more than 30 years establishing itself as one of North America's premier producers of Bordeaux varietal wines. From its modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, to its addition of Sauvignon Blanc in 1982, Duckhorn Vineyards has crafted a tradition of quality and excellence that continues today. Fundamental to that tradition was the early decision by Duckhorn Vineyards to focus on the production of Merlot. Though many Napa Valley wineries were using Merlot as a blending grape in the late seventies, few were exploring the potential of this varietal as a stand-alone wine. A great fan of Merlot since traveling to St. Emilion and Pomerol, Dan Duckhorn felt that this elegant varietal was under appreciated in North America.
The quality of Duckhorn Vineyards' wines has always been based on a commitment to selecting the finest fruit. Whether carefully sourcing grapes from top sites in the Napa Valley or committing itself to estate vineyards, the winery was built on the belief that great wines begin in the vineyard. At Duckhorn Vineyards this has always meant an emphasis on site and terroir. Today, the winery's seven estate vineyards are located in alluvial fans of the Napa Valley as well as on the coveted slopes of Howell Mountain. Winemaker Bill Nancarrow has numerous vineyard blocks to choose from, each offering markedly different flavor profiles. Dedicated to making wines that reflect the unique character and quality of the vineyards, Bill strives to understand the needs and opportunities presented by each specific terroir and microclimate. By approaching each vineyard block individually, Bill's goal is to harvest when the flavors have reached their peak and the tannins are at their softest. In the winery, Bill applies an artisan's approach to winemaking, blending from almost 200 distinctive lots using taste and instinct, not formula. Wines are barrel-aged separately by vineyard lot, utilizing an extensive barrel program that sources 25 different types of oak from 13 separate cooperages. The resulting wines combine accents from a comprehensive barrel program with grapes from diverse smaller appellations within the broader Napa Valley, including Howell Mountain, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena. For nearly three decades, the commitment to crafting wines of distinction has remained at the heart of the Duckhorn Vineyards philosophy. As its Napa Valley estate properties continue to mature under Bill's stewardship, the winery will continue creating world-class wines from exceptional vineyards.
At Duckhorn Vineyards, we believe that wines are made in the vineyard. While this may not be a new concept, it is one that we take very seriously. Therefore, in the late 1980s, we began to locate and purchase vineyard properties in recognized Napa Valley areas in order to acquire sufficient vineyard land to meet most of our long-term grape needs.
In addition to our Estate Vineyards, we work with a number of independent growers throughout the Napa Valley. We work closely with each of our partners to ensure that the fruit they produce meets the quality standards we require for our wines. The exposure to a wide range of viticulture techniques allows our team to exchange new farming ideas with our growers, which can then be applied to our Estate properties.
Our farming team works in unison with Executive Winemaker Bill Nancarrow whose winemaking philosophy also has its foundation in the vineyards. During the harvest season, he spends countless hours among the vines tasting grapes and gauging ripeness. Although the fruit is sampled and analyzed in the lab, Bill prefers to make more sensory picking decisions based on what he tastes and sees.
In the late 1980s we set out to locate and purchase vineyard properties in recognized Napa Valley areas in order to acquire sufficient vineyard land to meet most of our long-term grape needs. Our Napa Valley Estate Vineyard portfolio is now comprised of seven unique properties. Each site produces grapes with distinct attributes that reflect the variations in soil, terrain, microclimate, and exposure. For us, these Estate Vineyards convey a special sense of place and a growing tradition. Because of this, we take immense pride in their cultivation. We carefully selected a dedicated team to manage our Estate properties and have an in-house farming crew comprised of full-time and part-time employees who farm all of our Estates.
Candlestick Ridge Vineyard (1997) is a 28-acre site within the Howell Mountain appellation. Situated 1,700 feet above the Napa Valley floor, the physical geography of the site ranges from mountaintop plateaus to steep slopes. The site has the feel of a vineyard island floating at the top of a rustic wilderness. Looking out towards the southwest you can see Candlestick Ridge from which the vineyard gets its name. The 28-acre site is planted with Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan.
Stout Vineyard (1998) is located in the Howell Mountain appellation, one of the Napa Valley's most sought-after, ultra-premium winegrowing regions. As a result of its topography, soils, and climate, Howell Mountain has distinctly different grape-growing conditions than the valley floor. The 36 acres of vineyard are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Syrah. The Stout Vineyard also has 300 mature olive trees that were planted at the turn of the last century.
Monitor Ledge Vineyard (1992) is a 43-acre parcel planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc. Located on the alluvial fan of Selby Creek, the site is composed of cobblestones and a gravelly sandy loam. Water drains rapidly in the lean soil, causing the vines to struggle to grow, thereby bringing about the fruit intensity and structure that make the wines from this area so unique. The Monitor Ledge Vineyard is located in one of the warmer growing regions of the valley. The vineyard is often the first we harvest and brings us an indication of the quality of the vintage to come.
In the late 1800s, the land that is now home to the Three Palms Vineyard was a residence for famed San Francisco socialite Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She left her mark in the Napa Valley in the form of three lone palm trees, which were all that remained from her estate after the house fell into disuse and ruin. Lillie died in 1929 at the age of 86. The 83-acre vineyard is located on the northeast side of the Napa Valley in an alluvial fan created by the outwash of Selby Creek where it spills out of Dutch Henry Canyon. The site is covered with volcanic stones washed down over the centuries from the canyon. The soil (what there is of it) is rocky and well drained causing the vines to send their roots far, wide and deep to find the necessary nutrients and water. The stones aid the vineyard, absorbing the sun's heat during the day and radiating the heat during the night to protect the vines during frost season and help ripen the fruit.
Marlee's Vineyard (1976) was the first estate ever planted by Duckhorn and is our home vineyard. The Napa River marks the western border and winter floods have deposited layers of silty river-bottom soil over time, making for a rich, well-drained sandy-loam profile. The site is ideally suited to grow Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon; the grapes from this site are the backbone of our white wine program. There couldn't be a more optimal situation than harvesting grapes only yards away from the winery—this proximity allows the fruit to be picked at the peak of ripeness.
Rector Creek Vineyard (1994) is located north of Yountville along the Silverado Trail adjacent to the Paraduxx winery. The unique climate combined with the rocky alluvial soils creates excellent growing conditions for the vines. The 39-acre site is planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The wines from this vineyard exhibit abundant dark red fruit characteristics of black raspberry and hints of strawberry.
Patzimaro Vineyard (1989) is named after the hometown in Mexico of the Hurtado family, longtime cellar and vineyard workers for Duckhorn Vineyards, in honor of their hard work and dedication. The 15-acre vineyard, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, is located at the base of Spring Mountain on the west side of St. Helena. The site has high daytime temperatures that fully ripen the grapes and cool evening breezes and fog that allow the fruit to retain the natural acidity needed to make balanced, elegantly structured wines.
Cork Tree Vineyard (2005) is located just off the Silverado Trail in Napa and is the southernmost and coolest of all our Estate vineyards. The site consists of 20 acres planted to Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. This particular parcel has great soil with good drainage and depth, a western hillside exposure, and a location in a desired winegrowing area. Cork Tree Vineyard is named for the prominent Cork Oak that grows majestically among the vines; its presence in the vineyard brings a sense of connection from the vines to the bottled wine.