Perhaps no other single wine in the world bears more weight and responsibility to a varietal’s prestige and potential than the Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot. While the popularity of Merlot in America has plummeted, Duckhorn’s Three Palms has been on a meteoric rise.
In 2017, Wine Spectator tasted 17,000 wines over the course of the year. As they compiled the short list of the top wines of the year, they ranked them as they always do based on four factors: quality, value (price), availability and, what they call ‘the X factor’ (advertising dollars spent). As you probably know by now, Duckhorn’s Three Palms was Wine Spectator’s 2017 #1 Wine of the Year.
On the heels of being crowned Wine Spectator’s 2017 #1 Wine of the Year in their Annual ‘Top 100’ list Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, the founders of this Napa institution finally were able to purchase their beloved Three Palms Vineyard, further cementing their dedication to the continuation of one of the best representations of the varietal in the world. It took a long time to do so. In the decades they’ve been crafting Merlot, Duckhorn’s name is mentioned in the top echelon of American Bordeaux blends with the wines of Insignia, Opus One and Silver Oak.
In the knockout 2016 vintage in Napa, the weather did much of the heavy lifting. Winter rains replenished the soil but completely dried up by Spring providing even temperatures and dry conditions well into August. A perfectly timed dip in September temperatures allowed for extended hang time at Three Palms and the development of bright acidity and polished tannin that only occur in the very best vintages.
This one is silky and broad, perfectly balancing that raw Napa power on its Cabernet/Malbec backbone (one of the secrets of Duckhorn’s success). It’s big and it’s complex – and it only reveals itself after 20 minutes in the glass, giving you a glimpse of how this one will age for decades. For that reason, Wine Enthusiast gave a ‘Cellar Selection’ designation to the wine along with a 94pt score. James Suckling echoed with a 94 of his own. With iconic wines like this, scores don’t mean much though. This wine is beauty now, but also as a prized collectible. For the serious Duckhorn enthusiasts and collectors who buy a case, the case price is best in the country. Drink now for the hedonism of it, but make sure you lay a couple down for the long haul.
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94 Points (Cellar Selection), Wine Enthusiast
Blended with 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec, this vintage is superb and exuberant in flavors of chocolate-covered plum, baking spice and dried herb. Structured, robust and mineral-driven, it is powerful yet balanced. Enjoy 2026–2036.
94 Points, James Suckling
This offers lots of plums, blueberries and violets on the nose. Some fresh-herb and green-olive undertones. Full-bodied and balanced with fresh fruit, sweet vanilla and wet-stone undertones. Chewy tannins and a long finish. Great potential, but already delicious. Impressed. A blend of 93% merlot, 6% cabernet sauvignon and 1% malbec. Drink or hold.