One Major Perk of Wine Club Membership – Dining with Duckhorn

Joining a wine club is another way you can enjoy the wines you love so much. Just about every winery out there has some sort of club offering. We’ve belonged to a few clubs over the years, but the only one we’ve stuck with so far is the wine club at Duckhorn. Duckhorn wines include not only their namesake wines but also their sister wineries Paraduxx and Goldeneye (notice the water fowl theme?). This means that a wine club membership provides members with access to the entire collection. Becoming a member helps you explore all that a winery has to offer. We’re firm believers in keeping our minds and palates open so we don’t close ourselves off to new wine experiences (it’s a good approach for amateur oenophiles likes ourselves).

For members who have the opportunity to frequent their favorite wineries, we encourage you to take advantage of winery events. We’ve been fortunate enough to attend several dinners and tasting parties hosted by Duckhorn and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every last one. The Pinnacle Dinner occurs in the winter at Paraduxx Winery in their dining room. The event features a themed menu and showcases the premier wines from each winery in the Duckhorn family. Several staff members are on hand to cater to guests and the winemakers from each label dine alongside you and present their wines to an admiring crowd.

This summer we attended Duckhorn’s Summer Magnum Dinner under the stars in the garden that borders the vineyard. This event featured wines from the magnum collection including old favorites like a 2011 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard – 3L, a 2001 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Monitor Ledge Vineyard – 9L, and a 2006 Paraduxx Howell Mountain Napa Valley Red Wine – Magnum. Talk about an amazing tasting experience! The delicious menu was designed and executed by chefs Jonathan and Natalie Niksa. The bacon wrapped scallop was the perfect texture and the braised pork with polenta and smoked tomato sauce was a summery delight. Every bite was artfully paired with a special selection from the winery’s portfolio.

One of the best aspects of attending a Duckhorn dinner is getting to know the other Duckhorn fans at your table. We’ve met folks from all over the world at wine club events and from all different industries, including the winemakers themselves. It may seem daunting to have an expectation of conversation placed on you at dinner, and with strangers no less. But conversation flows easier than you might think, especially because all the guests already have in common their love for Duckhorn wines. Instant BFFs, right?

So the next time you’re considering joining a wine club, pay attention to what’s being offered beyond the vino. And if you’re already a member, do your best to take advantage of the unique opportunities that your membership affords you. The Napa Valley experience is so much more than the wine.


An Afternoon with Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington

The Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 introduced us to Yealands Estate Winery in New Zealand in a witty and engaging talk with winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington. She educated the audience about the impressive sustainability features of Yealands and about the innovative spirit of its founder, Peter Yealands.

Kelly-Washington helped us get oriented to the unique climate and geography of New Zealand and the appelations that influence Yealands wine. She described the various microclimates in the vineyard including the low-yielding salty, herbal vines near the ocean and the sheltered inland vines that exude floral and citrus bouquets.

The tasting experience was an enjoyable one with six wines in all. What a treat to be educated by the winemaker herself as we sip and write!

Our first wine was the 2015 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc. It conveyed notes of white pepper and fresh mown grass, as one might expect from New Zealand wines, but with a lovely tropical breeze added in for good measure.

The 2014 Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc showed seaweed on the nose. It tasted of sun-baked granite and a hint of lettuce greens.

The 2014 Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc was acidic and flinty. A rich salinity complemented the taste of basil lemonade.

Next we sampled the Pinots, which were real gems. The 2014 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir eminated red fruit and spicy pomegranate with campfire smoke in a long, toasty finish.

The 2014 Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir was freshly acidic and filled the palate with bright cherry notes.

Our favorite was the 2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Gris. Its floral aromatics combined with refreshing nectarine. Kelly-Washington described this wine as having a unique “depth of concentration” and we would have to agree.

We are grateful for such an enriching tasting experience and thank Kelly-Washington and her team for their knowledge and generosity. If you’re an amateur oenophile like us we encourage you to give Yealands a try. Their wines take minerality to a whole new level.


Yealands Estate Winery – A Model for Sustainable Winemaking

Sustainability and winemaking are not mutually exclusive, and Peter Yealands of Yealands Estate Winery has proven this time and again at his winemaking facility in Marlborough, New Zealand. His winemaker, Tamra Kelly-Washington, gave a delightful talk at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 in Lodi, California about the efforts Peter and his team have made to create a fully sustainability winemaking operation.


Sustainable Winemaking at Every Turn

Yealands Estate Winery is located on the northern tip of the southern island of New Zealand (no, we haven’t been but it’s on the bucket list now!) and features a state-of-the-art operation that puts innovation at the heart of winemaking. According to Kelly-Washington, Peter Yealands is “always trying to push the limits of the winery” with new ideas and methods for conservation and cultivation. The winery recycles all of its waste, including recycling water that goes right back into the vineyard itself. The winery uses one-fourth of the energy to heat and cools its winemaking facilities than other wineries. Even the wine bottles themselves include sustainable features such as screw tops, lighter glass, and recycled materials in the labels and packaging.

Compost in the Vineyard

Massive composting efforts have had a positive impact on wine quality. The winery produces 50,000 tons of compost per year and includes rich nutrients from grapes, mussels, lye, seaweed, and sand. Composting is such an integral part of the winemaking process at Yealands Estate that the winery employs four full time composters to manage the operation. Kelly-Washington claims that grape quality has improved since the institution of composting four years ago.


Innovative Solutions

Yealands Estate Winery is a model of creativity when it comes to earth-friendly solutions. Kelly-Washington shared a surprising story for solving the winery’s biggest problem – weed control in the vineyard. The solution Peter Yealands devised has put the winery on the map. A herd of Babydoll Sheep roam throughout the vineyard nibbling on patches of weeds. The breed is short enough that they don’t disturb the grape vines themselves and subsequently contribute to the unique set of sustainable solutions pioneered at Yealands Estate. If you think sheep is an innovative idea try to imagine Peter Yealands first iteration – guinea pigs!