A Taste Of Time - Duckhorn Merlot Across Three Decades

Sunday, February 7th, 2010 | Wine Tasting Notes, wine, wine events | 1 Comment

Starting with 1985 (on the far left), there was still a strong influence from Europe in the way California growers kept their grapes. At that time, the old-world style of letting the grapes show their fruit and allowing an extended lay-down on the bottle was apparent when I took my first waft of the red and orange-tinged liquid in my glass. I wasn’t detecting a big fruity merlot most of us are used to; I was sensing something close to an old-world style Bordeaux!


1985 Napa Valley Merlot ‘Three Palms Vineyard’– 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon (~12.5% alc.)

Good dark leather, cherry fruit on the nose with a hint of tobacco, cedar and a little vanilla spice. Flavors of sweet soy sauce with solid tannic structure, but not big at all in the mouth. The fruit is still fresh, despite the age.

1985 Napa Valley Merlot (my favorite of the two) – 78% Merlot, 15% Cabernet, 7% Cab Franc

Some chocolate-covered cherry on the nose, cedar and oak, dark spice of lavender and violet. Soft tannins, a good balance of fruit, some leather in the flavor. About an hour later in the glass: very smoky and rounded spiciness. This opened up beautifully!

Jumping to the 1995 vintages, everything changes. The wine is bigger, fruitier and toastier. The increase of alcohol levels during the 1990s was very common and only continued to grow into the 21st century. Both of the merlots are drinking beautifully now and could be cellared for a few more years, but definitely at a peak.


1995 Napa Valley Merlot ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ – 76% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 6% Cab Sauv. (13.4% alc.)

Aging nicely with bright blackberry and blueberry fruit on the nose. Lots of cherry and strawberry on the palate, milk chocolaty and toasty vanilla tones. There is an underlying current of minerality and slate through the Three Palms merlots.

1995 Napa Valley Merlot – 82% Merlot, 13% Cab Sauv, 5% Cab Franc

Rich ruby red color with more earth and mushroom, black cherry and coffee on the nose. It was smooth, with dark, intense juiciness. Needed to blow off the alcohol for a little bit, though. Black cherry and cassis flavors came out beautifully balanced with the oak towards the end of the tasting.

The 2005 vintages lead us into what is predominately in the market now and ready to drink. The difference leading up to this point is that the tasting went from letting the grapes display their elegance, to big, juicy fruit bombs that are manipulated with oak, some sugar to raise the alcohol levels and much richer drinking. Upon first sips, I forgot I was drinking merlot and feeling more like a cabernet sauvignon had been placed in front of me. In fact, had this been a blind tasting, I would have failed miserably. The only tell-all was the lack of black pepper on the nose that is common in Napa cabs.


Three Palms Merlot – 77% Merlot, 14% Cab, 6% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot (~14+% alc.)

Very pretty nose of flowers, like sweet rose petals and violets (indicative of the petit verdot). Some orange peel, sweet fruits of cherry and boysenberry came out on the palate. This wine had a nice dark color, good cedar aromas, some mustiness and lots of cherry-vanilla hues. This was my absolute favorite! Tremendously LUSH.

Napa Valley Merlot – 86% Merlot, 13% Cab, 5% Cab Franc

Lots of raspberry, red licorice, clove spice, leather and strong, rich tannins made this a wonderful wine as well. It was chewy, presented a big mouth feel wine that would be fantastic with some herbed lamb chops. It was showcasing full acidity and lots of black pepper! A little bitter at the end would be rounded out nicely with some aged cheeses for sure.

Finally, we reached the most current vintages that are not quite out on the market, or soon will be by the time this article reaches some of you. The 2006 Three Palms merlot and the 2007 Napa Valley merlot are not the merlots of old. These are what most of us have come to expect out of Napa, CA. However, please don’t take these comments as negative. It’s become clear to many winegrowers of California that they have a certain terroir to introduce, and have spent the last 30 years honing in on those characteristics. What I tasted out of these two vintages was just that…


2006 Three Palms Merlot – 75% Merlot, 13% Cab, 7% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot (Not on the market just yet)

This was an expected aroma of new wood oak barrels, like freshly cut timber. This wine shows strong acidity at the front, some strawberry and red berry fruit flavors on the tongue with strong minerality and a long jammy finish. It was nice to drink now, but absolutely needs some time in the bottle; say, 3-5 years.

2007 Napa Valley Merlot (another favorite) – 89% Merlot, 10% Cab, 1% Petit Verdot

A lot more pepper this time than the Three Palms was showing and also darker in color. I picked up a lot of tobacco flavors, cherry pie with a tinge of anise or sweet licorice. Some plum and vanilla lingered in the background. Fig fruit, almond and cedar came out on the finish and a bit of doughiness from the oak aging. Very sold wine in terms of structure. This is great to drink now, but I think in about 5 years, this is going to be phenomenal wine!

It’s clear that the folks at Duckhorn know their grape and will continue to create beauty in a bottle. It was so surreal to taste wines that have been around about as long as I have and to grasp what each one revealed over a course of its life. Well done!


Kronick Wino

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Upcoming Wine Tasting Dinners / Events - Fairfield, CT

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 | Restaurant Reviews, wine | No Comments

There seems to be a slew of upcoming wine events in the Fairfield / New Haven CT wine bars and restaurants, so here are a few key dates to mark in those wino calendars! I’m sure you’ll catch me at a few of them myself. :)

Strada 18

Strada 18 will be hosting a Belle Pente Vineyards wine dinner that includes a 7-Course tasting menu.

  • Includes 3 whites (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonney)
  • 4 Reds (ALL Pinot noir)
  • $115/pp, tax and gratuity NOT included
  • DATE: March 11th, 2009, 7PM

Belle Pente Vineyards is from Oregon, specifically they Yamhill-Carlton district of Willamette Valley, also one of my MOST favorite regions from which I highly recommend picking up a Pinot Noir. These are Burgundy-style Pinots with such amazing balance and flavor that they are world-renown.

I realize this one is a bit pricey, but it’ll be well worth it! This is NOT to be missed!!

Check out the menu here.

122 Washington St.
South Norwalk, CT 06854

55 Wine Bar & Restaurant

Will host a wine dinner tasting. Tuesday March 24, 2009 at 6:30.
More details to come on this one…….
Call to make reservations.

55 Miller Street
Fairfield CT 06824

Barcelona Wine Bar - South Norwalk


Barcelona is throwing a Carnivale! party on Tuesday, Febuary 24th at 7PM.

$45/pp plus tax & gratuity. Payment is due upon arrival. Wine food and entertainment are included in the price. Additional drinks will be available at the bar for an additional charge.

Call for reservations.


63-65 N. Main St.
S. Norwalk, CT 06854
Telephone: 203-899-0088


Click here for details.

Other Wine Events:

Bin 100 Restaurant - Wednesday, March 11th - Charles Krug Wine Dinner- Call for Details

Bin 100 Restaurant
100 Lansdale Avenue
Milford, CT 06460


Cava Wine Bar - Tuesday, February 24th, 6:30PM - Spanish Wine Tasting Dinner- Click for menu

2 Forest Street
New Canaan CT  06840

Bistro Basque - Tuesday, March 2nd, 7:00PM - Basque Regional Wine Tasting Dinner - Call for details.

T. 203-878-2092

Meigas - South Norwalk - Wednesday, March 4th, 7:00PM -Meet the Winemakers Dinner / Flamenco Dancing.

Click for Details / Tasting Menu

10 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT 06850
Tel: 203-866-8800
Fax: 203-899-0576

For you BEER lovers:

The Gingerman, South Norwalk - Monday, February 23rd - B. United International importers - Call for time.

$75/pp includes 5 course dinner with beer pairing.

99 Washington Street
South Norwalk
Connecticut 06855
Phone: 203-354-0163
Fax: 203:642-3382

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A Wino’s List of Places To Sip (and Eat) in Connecticut

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 | Favorite Wine Destinations, Restaurant Reviews, wine | 2 Comments

I think it’s high time I share with you some of my favorite places to go to indulge myself. I might not give away all my secrets, but I think there are lot of places around the Fairfield County / New Haven County region that most wouldn’t know to go to for wine and great food. I tend towards a lot of South American  and European wines and cuisine, in case you couldn’t tell.

Here’s my list for you:

Great Food & Wine:

55 Degrees Wine Bar & Restaurant (Fairfield, CT)

Reservations Recommended Fri / Sat. Bar Tables are open for reservations as well (there are only 2).

55 Miller St.
Fairfield, CT 06824

See my review for them here.

Map: View Larger Map

Match (South Norwalk, CT) - Ok, Fois Gras fans unite! But if you’re not into that kind of thing, then Seared Tuna Fans unite! If I could only pick 2 things here, those are what I’d pick. But don’t overlook the great entrees and fantastic pizzas they create. MMMMM - always a great atmosphere, stylish crowd and awesome bar scene. Reservations strongly recommended Fri / Sat night.

98 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854

Map:View Larger Map

Strada 18 (South Norwalk, CT) - Kind of new to me, but the few times I’ve been there I was very impressed. They have some great cheeses to choose from for a sampling plate, amazing wines, and the Chicken Scarpiello is OUT OF THIS WORLD! Oh, they also do wine dinners often, so make sure to ask your waiter about that!! Reservations Recommended Fri / Sat.

122 Washington Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854

Map:View Larger Map

Barcelona Wine Bar (South Norwalk, CT) - A great place to grab Spanish tapas and numerous wines by the glass. Sundays and Mondays offer 50% any bottle! That’s a great deal! They have my favorite Tannat wine. :) Reservations Recommended Fri / Sat.

63-65 N. Main Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854

Other Locations

Map:View Larger Map

Kazu (South Norwalk, CT) - Sushi, here. Don’t overlook the world of Sake and Fish! I’m reserving my sushi thoughts for a whole other post. Too many places to not talk about! But this is one of my favorites in the area.

64 N. Main Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854

Map:View Larger Map

Bistro Basque (Miilford, CT) - A hidden pearl in the salty waters of the harbor town, Milford. The owner, David Fernandez, is straight from the Basque region and his palette is impeccable. The dishes here are just wonderful for anyone who has taste buds and looking for more. He’s always there to say ‘hello’. And I prefer to sit on the Spain side of the restaurant. (You’ll see when you get there.) Don’t miss the Fois Gras, Sea Bass and Duck Confit! Reservations Recommended.

13 River Street
Milford, CT 06460

Map:View Larger Map

Paci (Southport, CT) - At the Southport train station you’ll find a converted conductor house that now caters to the very fine gastronomes in the area. This can be a ‘pinkies up’ type of joint, but don’t be fooled. There is an underlying sense of down-to-earth feel in the brick and steel that confines this place. The food is fantastic and the wine list can be daunting. Ask your server for their suggestions.

96 Station St.
Southport, CT 06490

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Cucina Modo Mio (Westport, CT) - Not a well-known place. Sits right on the Saugatuck River in the Bridge Market plaza. Small, quaint, amazing Italian cuisine, nice size bar, cozy and kind of romantic. You can bring your own wine too! Check it out! They do take out and are closed Monday.

5 Bridge Square
Westport, CT 06880

Map:View Larger Map

Zest (Westport, CT) - For those of you who are familiar with Da Pietro’s, this is a more trendy spin-off of the classic cuisine that you might be used to. They have the Stag’s Leap Petit Syrah that I love. A fantastically cozy basement location under the old bank building in Westport near the YMCA. Excellent service and very classy.

8 Church Lane
Westport, CT 06880

Map:View Larger Map

Tutti’s (Westport, CT) - BYOB; Excellent family-owned Italian eatery with remarkable Chicken Scarpiello (are you noticing a theme?) and Veal dishes.
Map:View Larger Map

599 Riverside Ave
Westport, CT 06880

Wine Bars:

Wine Knot (Southport, CT) - Right near the Southport train station and next to I-95, this wine bar with sailing theme is a great stop for a glass or a bottle, even a night-cap. The wine list has a good selection of Old World and New World wines alike. They don’t serve food here, BUT one can order take-out. Southport Pizza is right down the road and they will deliver to this spot. The bartenders also have a stash of menus to get food delivered to you and if you ask, they will also plate it for you to eat like a normal human being. Fantastic!

Old Post Road
Southport, CT 06880

Map:View Larger Map

Note that Google maps does NOT have the correct address for this bar. (Maybe that was on purpose….) But this map I’ve linked you to will give you the most approximate area you can find this place. It’s on the opposite side of the road between John st and Elmwood Drive.

Wine Shops:

Wines Unlimited (Milford, CT & Stratford, CT) - Pricing is almost always a few bucks less than most other shops I know of. However, selection is hit or miss sometimes. Call ahead if you’re looking for something really specific.

Stew Leonard’s Wine Shop (Norwalk, CT) - the Back room……that’s all I have to say.

Wine Emporium (Shelton, CT) - If Bob is working, ask him what he’s sipping on. Great recommendations will await you here. And they have a phenomenal selection of Spanish wines which i thoroughly enjoy.

Harry’s (Fairfield, CT) - Wine tastings on Saturday afternoons (12-4pm, usually). These guys can find you almost anything.

Turnpike Liquors (Fairfield, CT) - Ask to see their ‘cellar’.

The Twisted Vine (Fairfield, CT) - Great for weekend wine tastings and fantastic selection of Italian wines, along with a small, but focused ‘cellar’ room full of collectibles!

Random Goodness (wine, of course):

Cafe L’Atlantique (Miford, CT) - Very casual cafe in downtown Milford. But the great thing here is you can sit down to some house-made crepes, paninis, salads and….. wine. (oh, they have beer too.)

Jonathan Edwards Winery (North Stonington, CT) - Don’t leave without a bottle of the Syrah or the Syrah Port.

Hopkins Vineyard (Warren, CT) - My favorites are the Cabernet Franc and the Westwind. Although, I will say I am very much enjoying the current Chardonnay vintage. Nice and delicate; not too oaky as in past years. Do NOT leave without trying the ice wine. It’s worth the extra $2.50.

McLaughlin Vineyards (Sandy Hook, CT) - Great in the summer for picnicing and listening to jazz on the lawn.

Sunset Meadows (Goshen, CT) - Ask for Judy. Tell her Natalie sent you and that you must try the Twisted Red with the chocolate pairing.

I essentially enjoy all of the Connecticut Wineries. For a full list, click here.

I’m always looking for a few good wine spots to add to my list. Send me one of yours!

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