Duckhorn’s Three Palms Merlot from Parker’s Greatest Vintage in 37 Years
In the 2013 vintage, Robert Parker’s “greatest in 37 years,” Duckhorn’s enhanced rigor in its legendary Three Palms Vineyard paid monster dividends. The 2013 is a Three Palms Merlot like never before — a wine of immense concentration and polish, gorgeous out of the gate but built to age gracefully into the late 2020s.
In 1978, Dan Duckhorn contracted for 15 acres of Merlot set on rocky volcanic soils, created by the outwash of Selby Creek where it spills out of Dutch Henry Canyon. Along with Opus One, Silver Oak, and Phelps Insignia, Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot would soon become one of Napa Valley’s most iconic wines. Thirty-three years later, Duckhorn finally purchased Three Palms and immediately began raising the bar in the vineyard.
But the story begins further back in time — in 1850, when a seven-year-old girl named Lillie Hitchcock Coit was rescued by a firefighter from a burning hotel. Years later, to repay her debt, she became the fire engine company’s most prominent patron. Known for her philanthropy, legendary parties, and devotion to the Knickerbocker Fire Engine Company #5, Lillie would leave significant marks on the Bay Area when she passed away in 1929.
One came in the form of San Francisco’s iconic Coit Tower. Another was Coit’s Napa Valley residence; a property that sadly fell apart after Lillie’s death. Despite the disrepair, three lonely palm trees stood tall; a reminder of potential and hope from a bygone era.
Fast forward to the mid-70s. Dan Duckhorn and Sterling Vineyard’s brilliant winemaker Ric Forman hatched a plan that could only be realized by extensive study in Bordeaux. The duo spent a better part of a year traveling to France and studying Right and Left Bank; whenever they returned home, they’d scour Napa for vineyard opportunities with first growth potential. Finally, in 1978, Lillie’s palms caught their eye. This discovery laid the foundation of one of the most desirable Bordeaux-style reds in Napa’s history.
2013 was the second consecutive drought year in Napa Valley, spawning conditions that demanded meticulous skill. The Duckhorn crew responded by painstakingly plotting out the harvest, timing processes that smartly accounted for soil’s notorious rockiness. One sip is all that’s needed to know the added diligence paid enormous dividends.