Thirteen years ago, in one of my first articles for The Austin Chronicle, I had the opportunity to taste through several wine and food combinations with Danielle Smith, director of food and beverage for the Four Seasons. At the end of the night, both Danielle and I agreed that the one wine that matched up with every single dish we tried was Duckhorn's Sauvignon Blanc. It was a glorious wine with racy acidity, low-key tropical fruit aromas, and a dense mouthfeel. It had one major drawback: price. At $30, you'd have to be a successful attorney to casually pop the top.
Dan Duckhorn took pity on the rest of us and started a new label called Decoy. The name is a play on the ducks adorning the label, but the good news is, you can buy this Sauvignon Blanc for as little as $13-15 a bottle. There are two main differences between the Duckhorn and the Decoy. The Duckhorn blends some Sémillon into the mix, and its fruit is from Napa. The Decoy is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and the fruit comes from Sonoma County. Duckhorn's version tastes like white Bordeaux on steroids, while the Decoy tastes like a near perfect version of Californian Sauvignon Blanc.
Of course, Duckhorn's fame comes from its Napa Merlots. These wines sell out quickly and run $65-85. While the price is high, there are few Merlots anywhere in the world that can match them. The Decoy version is a Sonoma wine, but it also gets great barrels and much of the winemaking skill that goes into the Duckhorn wines. The quality and reputation of these wines make the $25 price tag seem pretty accessible. It's certainly not a casual drink, but if you want an idea of what makes the Duckhorn Merlots magical, starting with the Decoy is a great way to get a relatively economical introduction to the house style. Both Duckhorn and Decoy wines sell out quickly after release, so it's best to contact your favorite wine shop to check on availability. Any fine wine shop can order them.
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