Thursday, October 27, 2011

Duckhorn 2008 Napa Valley Merlot

A whirlwind business trip landed me at the Old Hickory Steak House in the Gaylord National in Washington, DC. Not only does the restaurant have a great wine list and well prepared food, but it also excels in cheese. Diners can open their meal with a cheese course with rare and delicious cheeses from around the globe.

The maître d’ of cheese had prepared a succulent selection of cheeses ranging from smooth and buttery cheese from France to award-winning blue veined cheese from Wisconsin. The cheeses were paired with local honey, a tangy cranberry spread and nuts. The challenge was to find a wine that would pair well with this spectrum of fromage.

My first inclination was to go for a Riesling, but nothing from the wine list jumped out at me. Instead I opted for a medium bodied red. I was going for a wine in the mid-point of the prices, but my host urged me to “not hold back.” I didn't need much urging and selected the Duckhorn 2008 Napa Valley Merlot. It’s a rich and rewarding wine that ranged into the triple digits on the wine list.

The wine is a blend of several Napa vineyards and so can be considered an “index wine” reflecting the best of the Napa 2008 vintage. It’s a deep wine that is a blend of 86% Merlot, 9.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. It has a velvet touch with a streak of earthiness. Red berries mingle with oak and blueberry in a complex blend.

Out the windows there was a spectacular view of the Potomac at night with the lights of Old Town Alexandria twinkling across the water and out the side window there was a view of the expansive Gaylord National atrium. The opening cheese course was sumptuous. I took bread, placed a slice of cheese on top and then a dollop of either honey or the cranberry. This was followed by a warming sip of the Duckhorn.

Duckhorn has a well deserved reputation for superb wines. It’s built upon outstanding wines like the Napa Valley Merlot. It’s an elegant wine that’s the right choice for an evening of fine dining. Rated **** of *****.

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