Duckhorn Vineyards was founded in 1976 in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley. It was started by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn after Dan, a California native, toured the Bordeaux region of France in the 1970s. In 2007 a private equity firm took a significant ownership interest in Duckhorn, though Dan Duckhorn remains in charge of the estate. The winemaker is Renee Ary. The 229-acre estate is known for its big Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. Duckhorn was one of the first California producers to champion Merlot, and its Merlots are still highly regarded although today the estate also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet France and Semillon. About 75,000 cases are produced annually. Robert M. Parker has written that Duckhorn has “a very positive style that represents a hypothetical blend of the ripeness of Napa allied with the elegance of a top Bordeaux.”
Howell Mountain AVA in Northeastern Napa Valley was the first of Napa Valley’s sub-appellations, earning its own designation in 1984, just a year after Napa Valley became an appellation. As the name suggests, the AVA is in one of the highest elevations in the area. Every vineyard in the appellation is at least 1,400 feet above sea level. Some vineyards are as high as 2,200 feet and because of their altitude most of the AVA’s vineyards receive more sun than vineyards at lower elevations, which are affected by fog from the Pacific Ocean and the San Pablo Bay. Howell Mountain was home to vineyards in the late 19th century, but winemaker Randy Dunn is considered the area’s most influential modern pioneer. Dunn moved to Howell Mountain in 1979, acquired property and began making exceptionally rich Cabernet Sauvignon. The AVA also grows Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. There are 600 vineyard acres within Howell Mountain AVA.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.