Goldeneye Vineyards was established by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, who also own the much celebrated Duckhorn and Paraduxx Vineyards in the Napa Valley. Duckhorn Vineyard produces a variety of excellently crafted wines, including highly acclaimed Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, ripe and compelling Red Blends, and an elegant Sauvignon Blanc. At their nearby Paraduxx Vineyard, they produce a variety of robust and delicately balanced contemporary Red Blends, each expressing the essence of the Napa Valley soil and the consummate viticulture practices and quality grapes used in its blending.
While the Napa Valley is excellent for growing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, its climate is generally too warm and dry for Pinot Noirs. And so it was that the Duckhorns found a cool-climate appellation from which
they could make a Pinot Noir of the same high quality as their Napa Valley varietals. Goldeneye Vineyards, located in Philo, a small town on Highway 128 roughly thirty miles southeast of Mendocino, produced its first vintage of wine in 1997. The high quality and success of this deliciously sophisticated wine helped to make the Anderson
Valley the preeminent Pinot Noir region in California.
What separates the wine-tasting experience at Goldeneye from that of most other wineries is the setting. Rather than standing around an indoor counter where various wines are poured for you, Goldeneye conducts its tastings on a verdant garden deck, which features an awe-inspiring view or the meticulously landscaped vineyards and of a redwood forest in the background.
We were seated at tables shielded from the sun by umbrellas and served a great variety of wines by our most congenial and informative hostess, Janelle Teague. In addition to bringing us the wines, she also provided us with
cheese and crackers to enhance the tasting experience.
Janelle explained to us that the Duckhorns have made their last name the theme of their wineries. Paraduxx is, of course, a play on the words pair of ducks, and Goldeneye is a species of sea duck common to the northern hemisphere.
The duck theme goes even into the shape of the Philo, Confluence Vineyard (so named because it sits at the confluence of the Navarro River, Rancheria Creek, and Anderson Creek). From the air, one can see that the
vineyard has been planted so as to form the shape of a duck.
Naturally, despite the incredible setting and gracious hospitality, the highlight was still tasting the wines. We started with a refreshing 2011 Goldeneye Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. This wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir grapes and is left with the skins for only twenty-two hours, which gives it just a hint of salmon color. The aroma of this wine reminded me of watermelon and rose petals. I could imagine drinking it by itself, or, of course, with chicken or fish.
Next, we sampled the Migration (another duck-themed name) 2010 Chardonnay from the Anderson Valley Split Rail Vineyard. I found this superb wine to have a distinct aroma of pear and apple. Unlike some of the heavier
Chardonnays that seem oaky or buttery, this wine was crisper and a bit more complex.
Lastly, we tasted what we had come to taste—the highly acclaimed and high-end Goldeneye Pinot Noirs, of which there are three: the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir. While all three were enormously desirable, I preferred, upon several rounds of blind tastings,
the Gowan Creek Vineyard’s offering. Gowan Creek Vineyard is located closer to the coast than is the Confluence Vineyard, and has, therefore, a cooler climate. The wine had a lush flavor hinting at blackberries, plums, and wild
cherries. Still, being a Pinot Noir, it was not a heavy wine and could be consumed with virtually any dish or by itself.
Overall, this particular wine-tasting experience wasn’t just about tasting spectacularly well-made wines; it also was about enjoying several hours spent is a most relaxing and picturesque setting while chatting with an amiable and knowledgeable hostess. As far as wine tastings go, this one ranks near the top of the list. I would recommend a trip to Goldeneye Vineyards to anyone who visits the Mendocino Coast.
Photos by Philip Michaels