You ever pop the cork on a bottle, pour some in a glass, smell the wine, and say to yourself: Is that it? I mean, really? Well, this might just be one of those bottles… at least right away. After waiting fifteen minutes – actually, baking a frozen pizza – the nose finally did get somewhere. Unfortunately, though, that somewhere was more like the Greyhound station in Modesto than, you know, Pomerol or something.
This wine smells like wine. It doesn’t even smell like expensive wine: it just smells bland. There’s a little bit of sour kirsch, some spicy plums, and an awful lot of dead air. Moderately fat on the palate, there’s also an unnerving sense of absence: instead of fatness and plush, classic Napa merlot, you get the vinous equivalent of a receding hairline: as quickly as you can latch onto something worth noticing, it ebbs away into a thin, acidic, spicy, uninteresting puddle of a sweet, alcoholic cash drain. Over the course of a glass, the only marked change is that of the tannins, which tend to build over time into a thick fuzzy wall of sorts; they’re not sweet, refined, or pleasant, but they’re definitely there in an obstinately retro, oaky kind of way.
I really don’t know what to make of this wine. This was a present from some very generous coworkers a few years ago, and I was looking forward to it in a sort of ‘so this is what the other side drinks’ kind of way. I imagine that Napa merlot was Very Big Indeed in the 1990s; those were the days when every marketing executive at a company holiday party would hold forth on how the cheap crap they were pouring was no match for Pahlmeyer or what have you. Is this just a brand name coasting on reputation, hoping that rubes in less with-it parts of the country will keep on paying fifty bucks for this because they don’t know any better?
Seriously: Just grab a bottle of Hedges Red Mountain wine for a third the price and tell me why the Duckhorn even needs to exist with competition like that. Yeesh.