What to Drink Right Now: Vineyards, Vintages, & Varietals Oh My!

      I’ve sampled a number of wines from the same brand, same vintage/year, and same varietal, such as Merlot. You’d think that would be all you’d need to know when running into a store and picking up a bottle of wine. It’s not. You must also pay attention to the vineyard.

       You might think the vineyard and the winery are one and the same. And, sometimes that’s true. But often wineries source fruit from a number of different vineyards. Some vineyards they may own, some they may not. Different vineyards can produce different tasting fruit, sometimes vastly different. And with the difference in taste can also come a big difference in price.        

       Unfortunately, for the average shopper, the wineries usually don’t do much to differentiate the labels, so you need to read carefully, or that bottle of a much-loved wine you think you got for a bargain, is actually--just the wrong bottle.


       Duckhorn is truly an iconic brand. I sampled their 2015 Three Palms Vineyard Merlot from Napa and was enchanted. The rich, red fruit, the notes of bittersweet chocolate and earth, the silky-smooth tannins, and the long luxurious finish all added up to a fantastic wine experience. Pair it with foods like steak, or rich Italian fare, or gamey foods. Sharp hard cheese would go as well with it as dark, semi-sweet chocolate. Or forgo the food entirely and light the fireplace. It pairs as well with reading a book or chatting with friends. It is a can’t miss wine. This California wine costs $98 and it is well worth it.

       I also had their 2015 Napa Valley Merlot. It was $56. The difference was quite noticeable. It was much tighter and really needed time to breath and open up. While it is less expensive, if I was going to spend upwards of $50 on a wine, I would absolutely raise the budget to $98 if I was set on purchasing a Merlot from Duckhorn.

       Duckhorn is not the only winery where reading the label for the specific vineyard is important. In my last column I stressed the importance of doing the same when buying Jauik Merlot from the Champoux Vineyard vintage 2015.

       To be fair, there have been many times when my friends and I have liked a wine from a less expensive vineyard offered by a brand, and in this case, reading the label can reward you with a wine you love at a lower price.   

       So, while we all are in hurry, don’t just grab and go. Take the time to check, not only the varietal and vintage, but also the vineyard before bringing that bottle of vino up to the cash register.


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