American Wine, American Meal: Duck and Duckhorn Merlot #WinePW

As part of our #MerlotMe extravaganza in October, some of us received six bottles of wine as samples at three price points from Duckhorn Vineyards. Last year we were doing a Jura French wine dinner with food from the region and we figured it would be fine with the Duckhorn wine. While we were right and it was fine, the Jura wines paired with the Jura food was exceptional, while these fabulous Napa Merlot was just ho-hum with that meal

This year for #MerlotMe we wanted to go for Merlot and food pairs that we were confident were winners with Merlot but still a stretch for us in one way or another. That’s what led to this post where we paried two Napa merlot with both salmon and triptip as well as a number of sides.

But for these meal we loved the idea of pairing duck with Duckhorn — and as the Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring American Wines for an American Meal with an eye on Thanksgiving, we thought this would fit right in. 

Because not everyone does a HUGE holiday turkey, ham or prime rib with a large family gathering! For a smaller, more intimate group of friends or family, duck can be a great choice because it is special and not that challenging to prepare.


Great fall menu that showcases harvest foods and notes!


2014 – Duckhorn  – Merlot – Napa Valley – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $55
2014 – Duckhorn – Three Palms Vineyard – Merlot – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $98

Either or the pair of these wines together would be a very nice gift for a hostess, to have at a special meal, or to mark a year — drink now or  lay down for later.

2014 – Duckhorn  – Merlot – Napa Valley – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $55
Can find it at some Trader Joes for $45 or at Vons for $88 on sale for $55
88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Sixteen months in 100% French Oak Château-style Barrels (60 Gallons) with 40% New and 60% Neutral

This is more of a Cabernet lovers’ than a typical Merlot that most people may be familiar with: this is very intense and dense. The lower priced Decoy ($30) is really nice for the price, and while not as complex, gives you a sense of what a higher end Duckhorn Merlot has to offer and might intrigue you to go deeper!

Color – Lovely in color with jewel tones.

Nose – Balance, harmonious, a bit of oak, but more of the vanilla and spice side rather than the smoke and cigar side. Red sour cherry, tart red fruits like raspberry and pomegranate, but with an underlying sweetness of the vanilla, tart on the finish. As the wine opens up, some

herbal qualities start appearing that remind me of Herbal Essence shampoo!

…which I always hated in my youth but works well with the other notes of fruit and wood.

Palate – Smooth from start to finish, which is stunning. You may choose to decant this wine to help it open up.

With a fat rich meal like duck breast or a ride eye steak or prime rib, this wine will be a hit. For a cheese plate it prefers sharp rich cheeses over the creamy rich cheeses. The sharp tannins seem to smooth out the tannins in the wine, where the creamy cheeses seem to increase the tannin profile in the wine. The sharp aged salty cheeses go beautifully with this wine. like our mimolette and our saulnois. Gwen even liked the Bucheron cheese with this wine.

Winemaker Notes: Combining lovely structure and alluring appeal, this is a classic expression of Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot. Intense aromas of ripe cherry, plum and black fig rise from the glass, underscored by hints of leather and cedar. On the palate, it is lush and supple, with bright acidity and velvety tannins supporting layers of raspberry and black cherry, as well as hints of coffee and chocolate that carry through on the long finish.

 2014 – Duckhorn – Three Palms Vineyard – Merlot – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $98
86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot;
18 months in oak, 100% French Oak, 75% New Oak, 25% Neutral

This is a wine that if you are drinking now you will want to decant, other wise lay it down for a bit or serve it with a rich fatty meal. This is a wine that will make you grateful that you are able to enjoy a wine like this!

Color – More dense than the other, very dense, richer color, not as much clarity.

Nose – Vanilla and caramel, at first; this wine has a very subtle nose especially after first opening. As it opens up, the cranberry, currant, and pomegranate notes come through — lots of bright fruit and absolutely not a fruity bomb. While plentiful fruit, it is structured, not jammey. Not at all light bodied, but not overly heavy bodied either. The alcohol content is not evident in the flavors of the or feel of the wine. There are more earthy qualities that come through on the nose as this wine opens up.

Palate – We loved the herbal characteristic that shines through on this wine: Sage and mint. With our pairings, this wine loves the funky washed rind cheeses, and yes, you do need to eat the rind with the cheese and wine to experience the wonderful sensation. These cheeses bring out the cherry notes in the wine. This wine worked beautifully with our Washed rind D’Affinous and our Le June Autize, I liked it with the bucheron, a bit better than Sue did, however it still worked.. This also worked with our mimollette and Saulnois which brought out some chocolatey cocoa characteristics in the wine. As far as our cheese plate went. This wine went with all of the cheeses we were throwing at it tonight, and the experience was so satisfying and marvelous.

Forget dessert– do this cheese plate!

The mocha characteristics came through with the duck breast, a toffee, coffee, chocolate characteristic in the wine. While our meal did not highlight or bring out the herbal characteristics in the wine, it was an ideal pair.

Winemaker Notes: This classic expression of Three Palms Vineyard Merlot displays beautiful layers of dense dark red fruit, cedar, graphite and cream, as well as hints of wet river rock. Pure and polished on the palate, the rich flavors are underscored by firm, structured tannins and subtle sweet oak that will ensure that this stunning Merlot ages wonderfully for years to come.
What a lovely meal to go with both of our wines: rich harvest flavors that blend so well with our harvest meal. Salad with apples, pears, raspberries, and walnuts with homemade blue cheese dressing went well with both wines but were exceptional with our Three Palms. The oven baked squash with pumpkin spice went well with both of the merlot. The oven roasted brussel sprouts with the rendered duck fat over the top really put this dish over the top and was beautiful with both of the Merlot.

The finale, the duck yum, yum! The duck was cooked perfectly and not over spiced, just a bit of salt and pepper, tender and juicy, then with the pomegranate reduction was perfection. The richness of the duck was cut through with the freshness of the sauce, then when you found a pomegranate kernel it brought forth a burst of fresh fruit. All of these flavors went perfectly with our wine.

The mashed butternut squash was so good with the Napa Valley Merlot! I can imagined it would be perfect with a squash lasagna for a side dish or vegetarian option. The flavors of the brussel sprouts, squash and the duck breast with the lovely sauce, play so well with each other, they bounce off of each other harmoniously.

It was so fun having wines that worked so well throughout the entire meal.
See what everyone else ate and drank this month!

4 thoughts on “American Wine, American Meal: Duck and Duckhorn Merlot #WinePW

  1. Pingback: Roast Turkey Breast with Cranberry Merlot Sauce #winePW | Cooking Chat

  2. Pingback: Celebrating Thanksgiving and Mercer Wine Estates #winePW – Pull That Cork

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