Reduce by Half Episode 12: Merlot Month with Kay Malaske from Duckhorn Wines

October is Merlot Month, and you should celebrate with a delicious glass of Merlot! For this episode of Reduce by Half, we interviewed Kay Malaske, the Trade Relations and Education Manager at Duckhorn Wine Company. Duckhorn is one of the premier producers of Merlot in America, and we thought there would be few better people to ask about this noble grape varietal than Kay. We talk about Duckhorn wines, Merlot as a varietal, and, of course, some food pairing tips! You can listen by using the player below or click here to listen on iTunes. Enjoy!


About Duckhorn Vineyards & Kay Malaske

Duckhorn Vineyards was co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. From a modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Merlot and 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn has grown into one of Napa Valley’s premier wine producers. Unlike many producers in Napa Valley, Duckhorn Vineyards made a decision to focus on the production of Merlot. Dan was a huge Merlot fan from visiting the great Bordeaux wineries in St. Emilion and Pomerol, and felt the grape was underappreciated in America. Duckhorn Vineyards started by making single vineyard Merlot from the famous Three Palms vineyard (picture below!), and has since expanded production of Merlot to include many other areas in Napa Valley.

In addition to the delicious Merlot, Duckhorn Vineyards makes high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and The Discussion, a Bordeaux-style red blend. Moving beyond Duckhorn Vineyard’s home in Napa Valley, the Duckhorn family of wineries includes:

  • Decoy, making high quality wines at an everyday price in Sonoma.
  • Paraduxx – making interesting red blends in Napa Valley.
  • Goldeneye – making world class Pinot Noir in Anderson Valley.
  • Migration – making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley.
  • Canvasback – a new project showcasing Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon in Washington State.
  • Calera – a just added Pinot Noir producer from the Central Coast of California.

Pick out your favorite bottle and enjoy today!

  • A picture I took while at Three Palms Vineyard showing the vineyard in spring. Beautiful even on a rainy day!
  • Kay Malaske, the Trade Relations and Education Manager at Duckhorn Vineyards - our guest on today's episode!
  • Nick in front of the Three Palms Vineyard - yes, there really are three palm trees in it!

Merlot – the Grape and the Month

Merlot Grapes on Vine in Vineyard

Merlot is a red grape varietal is originally from Bordeaux, France. You can now find the grape growing particularly well in California, Washington State, Australia and even Chile, in addition to its homeland. Merlot is generally a grape that produces wines with soft tannins and a smooth body. Some flavors you can expect to find are:

  • Black cherry
  • Plum
  • Cedar
  • Tobacco
  • Vanilla / Mocha (if aged in new oak)

Merlots are excellent food pairing wines that go with a wide range of dishes. I love Merlot with a well seasoned steak hot off the grill, roast duck dishes, tomato sauces, and more. It’s a versatile wine that many people can enjoy, so it’s a great choice to keep around the house for the next time you’re entertaining!

October is Merlot Month, and some of the top Merlot producers are celebrating with the #MerlotMe movement. It’s easy to join in, just share pictures of you enjoying a glass (or bottle) of Merlot with the hashtag #MerlotMe on your favorite social media platform. We’re offering a free #MerlotMe wine tasting on Saturday, October 21st, and many other wine shops are similarly featuring the grape. Click here for details on our free tasting!


Slow Braised Brisket Sliders with Quick Pickles Recipe


The Wine Country Fires of 2017

Kay and I recorded this podcast before the devastating fires hit Napa County and the surrounding areas. It was a bit surreal listening back to hear about how the vintage was looking and knowing that just a few days later massive fires would sweep through the areas and change thousands of lives. The Napa Valley community has done much to support charitable causes throughout the country, and they could use our help now. At the suggestion of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, I’ve personally donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund to help those affected by the fires. If you’re looking for a way to help out, please consider donating to this organization yourself. I’m including a link below. Thanks for your consideration – Nick.

Click here to donate to the Napa Valley Community Foundation

Thanks so much for listening to this episode, we hope you enjoyed learning more about Merlot and Duckhorn Vineyards! We’d like to extend a very special thank you to our guest, Kay Malaske for joining us. It’s great to have an expert join us, and her time is much appreciated. If you’d like to get more episodes, please subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. To subscribe on iTunes, just follow this link. See you soon with lucky Episode 13!

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