Two of the most frequently asked questions I receive are: (1) Do you have a favorite winery in the Napa Valley and (2) What is your favorite wine?
There are over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley and thus far I have been to around 130 of them, many more than once. While I can’t say I have a singular favorite winery, I do have a “Top 10” list which includes, but not necessarily in this order, the following: Luna Vineyards (the best Italian varietals and blends), Shafer Vineyards (awesome Bordeaux blends), Crocker and Starr (awesome Bordeaux blends), Turnbull Cellars (awesome Bordeaux blends), Stony Hill Vineyards (the best Chardonnay), Saintsbury (the best Pinot Noir in Carneros), W.M Harrison (best valued Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux blends), Venge (Killer Cabs, Sauvignon Blanc and unique blends), Duckhorn Vineyards (awesome Merlot and Bordeaux blends) and Paraduxx (awesome Cabernet and Zin blends).
While I like just about every wine varietal, among the top of my favorites would be Bordeaux blends (Meritage) and Pinot Noir. So, if I could only drink wine from one winery (or family of wineries) for the rest of my life that winery would be Duckhorn. I have been to Duckhorn Vineyards multiple times as well as Paraduxx. What I love about them is not only the high quality of their wines, but the atmosphere of the tasting rooms. Many wineries utilize tasting bars which aren’t very comfortable and you can’t really relax and enjoy your wine.
In contrast Duckhorn and Paraduxx have the look and feel of visiting someone’s home where you can either taste in the living room or relax out on the porch enjoying the view of the vineyards while sampling their wines. If I ever owned a winery, or just served wine in one for a living, I would want my tasting room to have the exact look and feel of Duckhorn.
Duckhorn is in St. Helena and Paraduxx is in Napa, both are located along the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley and I have visited them several times. Recently I made a trip north to Mendocino County and visited their sister winery – Goldeneye. Like the others, it has to the look and feel of a comfortable home and you have the option of either sampling the wines in the living room or out on the patio overlooking the beautiful vineyards. It also has a very impressive line-up of wines, with Pinot Noir being the primary focus.
Like the others, Goldeneye also has the duck theme, even going so far as to shape a segment of the vineyards into the shape of a duck’s head which can only be seen from an aircraft or satellite.
The Founders and History
Goldeneye Winery was founded in 1996 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn who are well-known for producing stellar Merlots and Bordeaux blends at Duckhorn Vineyards in the Napa Valley. They then ventured into producing an experimental blend utilizing Cabernet and Zinfandel which eventually became a winery in its own right named ParaduxxWines.
Duckhorn then expanded into producing Burgundian varietals, particularly Pinot Noir. However, rather than following the Napa Valley trend to look to the Carneros AVA for a cooler climate, they went 2 hours north to Mendocino County to the town of Philo in the Anderson Valley. There they found vineyards with clay soils and a marine-influenced climate offering long, mild days and cooling fog and winds, which provide ideal terrior for Pinot Noir.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:
The first wine was the 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. This wine is clear pale salmon-pink and displays medium intense aromas of watermelon, cranberries, and under ripe strawberries. On the palate it is light and refreshing with a medium- body, has ample acidity and a medium+ length. This wine sells for $28 per bottle.
The second pour was the 2011 Migration Chardonnay – Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. This wine is golden yellow in color with slow forming tears. On the nose it displays aromas of golden delicious apples, caramel and a hint of butter. On the palate it is medium bodied with medium+ acidity, very soft on entry with a creamy texture on the mid palate. It is well balance, not overly oaky or buttery, and delivers a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.
The third wine was the 2010 Anderson Valley Goldeneye Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine has EXPLOSIVE aromas of strawberry preserves, sarsaparilla, spice and a hint of cloves. On the palate it has intense and concentrated fruit forward flavors, medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a long finish. An unmistakable California Pinot – very fruity, not very earthy – but an excellent wine. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.
The fourth sample was the 2010 Confluence Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine has aromas of strawberry preserves, cinnamon stick, cloves and a hint of smoke. It is medium- in body but medium+ in acidity with refined tannins and a silky texture and a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $80 per bottle and is ONLY available through the tasting room or online.
The fifth wine was 2010 Gowen Creek Pinot Noir. This wine is very distinctive from the previous, on the nose has strawberries and cherries but unlike most California Pinots it is also very earthy and smoky, almost like an Oregon Pinot, but also with notes of cedar, cinnamon and spice. On the palate it is richer and “sweeter” but not sugary with additional notes of root beer on the finish. This is probably one of THE best California Pinots I have ever tasted. This wine sells for $85 per bottle and I brought one home. It is ONLY available through the tasting room or online.
The sixth wine was 2010 The Narrows Pinot Noir. In many respects this wine is similar to the previous Pinot with aromas of strawberry preserves and root beer but with even more smoke. But on the palate it is more full bodied with a full-mouth feel, medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium length finish with additional notes of rhubarb and spice. This wine sells for $80 per bottle. It is ONLY available through the tasting room or online.
The final wine was 2010 Ten Degrees Pinot Noir. In many ways this wine is comparable to the Confluence Pinot with notes of strawberry preserves, cinnamon stick, cloves and a hint of smoke. But on the palate it is very intense and vibrant with medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a long finish. This wine sells for $110 per bottle and is ONLY available through the tasting room or online.
To see more pictures of Goldeneye Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
9200 Highway 128
Philo, CA 95466