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Duckhorn Vineyards recently migrated to North County San Diego for a wine dinner at West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Courtesy photo/Duckhorn Vineyards
Duckhorn Vineyards recently migrated to North County San Diego for a wine dinner at West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Courtesy photo/Duckhorn Vineyards
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Duckhorn Vineyards migrates back to Del Mar’s West End

Napa Valley winery Duckhorn Vineyards recently returned to one of Sal Ercolano’s restaurants, this time at West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Ercolano collaborating with Marta Gebo, Duckhorn’s SoCal sales rep, and chef Noe, created a menu that perfectly complemented the Duckhorn wines served. It was an evening of exquisite flavors and excellent wine that delighted the palates of all guests.

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards in 1976, making it one of the first 40 wineries in Napa Valley. For over 40 years, they have been dedicated to crafting classic Napa Valley wines of the highest quality and consistency.

Today, they own and farm seven estate vineyards throughout Napa Valley’s microclimates. With a pioneering spirit, Duckhorn Vineyards introduced merlot as a premium varietal and continues to produce elegant merlot and distinctive cabernet sauvignon bottlings that showcase their vineyard sites.

Wine & Spirits recognized the winery seven times as one of the “Top 100 Wineries” in the world, and Wine Spectator awarded the 2014 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms Vineyard the “2017 Wine of the Year.” Visitors can enjoy tastings of Duckhorn’s world-class wines by appointment at its iconic St. Helena Estate House, featuring a wrap-around veranda with beautiful views.

Duckhorn Vineyards is delighted to have acclaimed winemaker Renee Ary leading their winemaking program. Starting as a lab manager in 2003, Ary worked her way up the ranks from enologist, assistant winemaker, and associate winemaker before assuming her current position.

Bottom left and top left) Marta Gebo, Duckhorn's Area Sales Rep for SoCal and Sal Ercolano, Proprietor West End amongst the guests. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Marta Gebo, Duckhorn’s SoCal sales rep (bottom left) and West End owner Sal Ercolano (top left) amongst the guests at. Duckhorn wine dinner at West End Bar & Kitchen. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The Duckhorn portfolio of brands includes Decoy, Goldeneye, Paraduxx, Migration, Canvasback, Calera, Kosta Browne, Greenwing, and Postmark. There are several other female winemakers throughout the company who are also contributing to the excellence of Duckhorn’s wines.

The evening kicked off with a tantalizing trio of Chef (Noe) Bites, featuring lamb meatballs, shrimp ceviche, and pesto pate with tomato. The perfect complement to these flavorful bites was the Goldeneye NV North Coast Sparkling Brut Rose, made from pinot noir grapes using the traditional Méthode champenoise method and aged en tirage for 26 months.

The en tirage process adds yeast and a bit of sugar to the still wine, creating the defining bubbles that get softer and smaller with each passing year. With notes of apricot, honeysuckle, and lemon peel on the nose and strawberry, cherry, and a hint of orange zest on the palate, along with a soft creamy texture and bright finish, this pairing was an excellent start to the evening’s culinary adventure.

For the second course, Chef Noe served Carpaccio D’Anitra, thinly sliced duck breast garnished with truffle oil and served with crostini. This delectable dish was paired with the Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay sourced from various sub-appellations, including Carneros, which happens to be one of my favorite places for chardonnay. I was pleasantly surprised to find similarities in the nose with the Brut Rose, along with notes of pineapple.

The palate was crisp with bright flavors of pear, white peach, and a hint of orange, with the slightest presence of baking spice. Fermentation was carried out both in barrel (90%) and tank (10%) and was aged in 100% French oak, with 40% new and 60% neutral.

Gnocchi alla Norcia paired with 2020 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Photo by Rico Cassoni.
Gnocchi alla Norcia paired with 2020 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Photo by Rico Cassoni

For the third course, guests were treated to a delightful dish of Gnocchi alla Norcia (Italian mild sausage and dry porcini mushrooms) in a white cream sauce, perfectly paired with Goldeneye Pinot Noir. This was my favorite pairing of the evening.

The lightness of the 100% pinot, with 73% estate fruit, offered bright cherry notes both on the nose and the palate, along with hints of leather and tea on the finish.

The fruit is sourced from more than 100 small lots. The pinot’s levity complemented the gnocchi dish beautifully without overpowering it. A stronger red wine, such as a zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon, might have competed with the dish’s flavors.

The main course was Beef Wellington Tenderloin topped with a red wine reduction gravy alongside creamy polenta. The Paraduxx Red Blend (53% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petite sirah, 12% zinfandel, 11% petit verdot, 7% syrah, and 5% malbec) with black fruit and cherry nose, dark berry and cherry palate, and pops of clove and spice on the finish harmonized well with the puff pastry wrapped beef tenderloin and gravy. Dinner concluded with Formagi Misti, an array of cheeses and nuts with acacia honey served with 2020 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Job well done, Sal, Noe, and Marta! See more information at

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

— Looking for more exciting wine dinner events? Join Sal Ercolano for two more powerhouse wine dinners in May! The Butcher Shop will host Penfolds from down under and Napa Valley at 6 p.m. on May 4. The main course, Moroccan Spice Lamb Chops, and saffron couscous will be paired with a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. The cost is $105 per person, including tax and gratuity. RSVP at

Plus, at 6 p.m. on May 18, West End will be welcoming Daou Family Estates from Paso Robles. The main course is Crispy Duck Confit with garlic mashed potatoes, paired with Daou’s flagship Soul of a Lion. At just $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity, this is a bargain you won’t want to miss. RSVP at 858-259-5878 before it’s too late!

— Join Randy Smerik, owner of Solare Ristorante, for an exquisite Keenan Wine Dinner on April 27. Michael Keenan, owner and winemaker of Keenan Estate in Napa Valley, will be leading the dinner, which includes five select wines, such as their classic cabernet sauvignon and merlot, paired with a delectable four-course menu crafted by executive chef Denice Grande. The evening will begin with a 6:30 p.m. reception, followed by dinner. The cost is $96 per person. RSVP at 619-270-9670.

— Speaking of Daou, Victor Magalhaes, proprietor of Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria, is hosting a Daou Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. on April 27. The main course features grilled lamb lollipops paired with the 2021 Daou Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon. Dinner is priced at $75 per person plus tax and gratuity. RSVP at 858-538-5884.

Contact Taste of Wine and food executive producer Rico Cassoni and founder/advisor Frank Mangio at [email protected]. 

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