by Duckhorn Vineyards
“Merlot is back, and deservedly so.” These were the words that introduced the 2014 Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot in January when Wine Spectator announced its “Wine of the Year” winner. While Merlot never really went away—at least not for wineries like Duckhorn Vineyards and L’Ecole N° 41—this powerful acknowledgment that a New World Merlot could stand toe-to-toe with the world’s finest wines was greatly welcomed by Merlot producers from Washington to California.
Duckhorn Vineyards made its first Merlot from Three Palms Vineyard in its inaugural 1978 vintage. L’Ecole N° 41 made its first Merlot in its debut 1983 vintage. For both wineries, Merlot is our flagship varietal, and together, we have 75 years of combined experience working with this amazing grape. While we grow our Merlot in very different conditions, soils and climates, we share a vision and an unwavering belief that Merlot is one of the world’s greatest grapes. At the heart of this belief is an understanding that when it is cultivated with care in the right locations, and crafted with thoughtfulness and artistry, Merlot can offer a level of complexity, structure, and age-worthiness that is the equal of any grape.
Both Duckhorn Vineyards and L’Ecole N° 41 were pioneers of Merlot in our regions. Guided respectively by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn and Jean and Baker Ferguson, our wineries took up the challenge of championing Merlot in our appellations and introducing it to wine lovers around the country (and later around the globe). We both established estate programs to grow our own grapes—including the Three Palms, Rector Creek and Stout vineyards at Duckhorn, and the Ferguson and Seven Hills vineyards at L’Ecole. Since they are in ideal locations for growing Merlot and farmed with the utmost attention to detail (including the pruning and crop reduction necessary to make beautifully concentrated and structured expression of the grape), these vineyards have become hallowed ground for Merlot enthusiasts.
Our vinification approaches are equally exacting, where our winemaking teams often work in extremely small lots, doing numerous fermentations, with the goal of preserving the character and complexity of the fruit we work so hard to grow. The techniques we use have been refined over decades and improved through innovation and experimentation. At the same time, our methods for making Merlot have developed with the goal of spotlighting our remarkable vineyards in a way that is both authentic and exhilarating. Whether it is from a region like Walla Walla Valley or Napa Valley, or from amazing vineyards like Three Palms or Ferguson, when handled correctly, Merlots can reflect a profound and intimate sense of place, while still providing the lush allure that makes Merlot so delightful.
At both L’Ecole and Duckhorn, Merlot is in our DNA—it is an essential element of who we are, and what we love. Sharing this love is an honor for us, but it also comes with a sense of duty to create Merlots that have something important to say. At their best, Merlots deliciously engage the senses in ways few other wines can, but they can also be sophisticated and thought-provoking, with the ability to embody a place and a moment in time. This duality is at the heart of Merlot’s magic, and the reason we have dedicated decades and generations to working with this noble variety.
“Merlot is back, and deservedly so.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.