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Kellie Duckhorn
February 11, 2016 | Kellie Duckhorn

When 80 points feels like 100 points!

Scoring Matters, sometimes...

I like to exercise...mostly for sanity, often to offset a great weekend meal, and generally because it makes me feel good. I run and swim regularly, XC ski whenever I can and am coerced into a bike ride perhaps once a month. I prefer the tandem cycling because my husband, Andy, is the captain and all I have to do is pedal and enjoy the country side pass by!

The other morning, I was out running in Las Posadas, and it occurred to me that every run, every day of exercise, could be scored. Some days, the score is a solid 100 points. Those are the days when every stride, every breath, every stroke, every down pedal feels fluid, easy, perfect,'s hard to pinpoint why, you just feel it and know that it is a 100 point day!

100 Point Days

What I also appreciate is that it isn't always about a 100 point day...sometimes, it's more about the experience, the fact that I am outside, enjoying life, nature and taking a deep breath, feeling rather than just going through the motions. These are the days that often mean even more to me, make me feel alive and couragous, willing to push my body out of bed and into a space of initial discomfort, but in the end, to a place of accomplishment and exhilaration.

So, back to the other day...running in Las Posadas and taking stock of all that was around me...noticing the newts and the sunlight, the smell of wet earth and the sight of new wildflowers...and I thought of wine and how it is scored, and somehow trapped into a single definition that can be static and confining.

Wine is like exercise...the score is both fixed and fluid. Take an 88 point wine and pour it with your best friends, a fantastic home cooked meal, a sunset...suddenly, it is 100 points! I like benchmarks, I like goals, I like exceeding expectations. But I also like to think that wine, like exercise, is about the daily engagement. Be in the moment, create an opportunity, stop and enjoy the experience, and suddenly, it's not so much about the score, but instead, it's about the fact that you are just doing it!

Margaret Duckhorn, sharing a bottle of wine at my wedding!

Baldacci Wines with Scores

2012 Stags Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Label

90-92 points - Antonio Galloni

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label is quite pretty in this vintage. Floral and quite lifted for a Stags Leap Cabernet, the 2012 emerges from the glass with sweet raspberries, rose petals, mint and a subtle hint of spices. The style is decidedly feminine and nuanced throughout.

94 points - Wine Enthusiast, Cellar Selection

Spicy and leathery, this lovely wine unfolds with waves of red and blue fruit, from cassis to huckleberry and blueberry pie. Balanced and elegant, it has a substantive, complex finish, revisiting its black pepper introduction around a finely tuned finale of herb. Enjoyable now, it will take on deeper complexity through 2022.

2007 Stags Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Brenda's Vineyard - 50 bottles special offer, February 2016

92 points - Robert Parker

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Brenda’s Vineyard reveals more cedar, licorice and blacker fruits in its complex aromatics, and cuts a fuller, richer, more textured mouthfeel. Impressive purity, abundant red and black fruits, licorice and subtle background oak make for an impressive wine to drink over the next 12-15 years.

93 points - Wine Enthusiast, Cellar Selection

Shows its youth in the assaultive tannins that hit the palate with astringent toughness. But underneath are rich, pure and vibrant blackberry, cherry and cassis flavors. A very fine wine, as this bottling tends to be, but one in serious need of cellaring. It’s already throwing some sediment, suggesting it’s impatient to evolve.

2013 Stags Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Brenda's Vineyard - club only, SIGN UP NOW - release date Oct 2016

97+ points - Robert Parker

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Brenda’s Vineyard certainly looks like black pen ink with a purple hue. One of the most impressively colored wines in what is a dense purple vintage, this 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is explosively rich. It hits the palate with full-bodied power and authority, with no hard edges, extraordinary purity, ripeness, concentration and extract. Nothing is out of place, and the wine utterly compelling and potentially a 30+-year offering from Baldacci. This is possibly the finest wine I’ve ever tasted from them and at this price, a realistic value. Drink it from five years to 30+ years.



Ricardo Herrera
February 5, 2016 | Ricardo Herrera

Driving Teams to a Good Score


Growing up in a competitive Napa Valley, I approached many experiences with the idea that being part of a team was the most important thing. This happened not only in the sports I played, but also in the wine cellar. Since I was young, I have been playing sports and making what we all love: wine. What truly helped me excel in both of these things was the teamwork that came with it. 



When I was young my life revolved around soccer. I felt I had a purpose on the field. I was there to play hard and win, using my best sets of skills. I loved everything about being part of a team and having an opportunity to work together. I was captain for many years and my teammates gave me the name, Tucka. I also had an opportunity to play soccer with my brothers and cousins.

I now find myself a part of a different team. It isn’t necessarily a sports team, but it is still a team. The cellar is a place where everyone has to have a common goal and to understand that the only way to accomplish that goal is by working together.  Each year we are committed to work hard from the harvest, to the pressing and the fermentation of the grapes, and finally, to the bottling of the wine. By working together through all the stages that go into winemaking we are able to accomplish the beautiful art of wine. Even today I find myself on a team with family members and close friends. We are all here to achieve the same thing….GREAT WINE and a GREAT TIME!



Joaquin Herrera
January 29, 2016 | Joaquin Herrera

New Year, New Name


Being the new guy on the Baldacci Team has been a wonderful experience so far! When I first came on board I was instantly given many nick-names. My actual name is Joaquin, which sounds like “walking” but spelled: “Joaquin”. Most people at Baldacci know me as Little Cat. Being the youngest and newest member to the team, it fit perfectly. The other nick-name I soon had was Tony. This came about one day when I went to pick up sandwiches for everyone. It was too difficult for the lady at the sandwich shop to understand my name, so I became Tony. Not too long ago, Michael and Elizabeth discovered that I have secret nick-name that only comes out when I dance. When good music is on I become Memphis.  Even though I’ve had many names throughout the year I am thrilled to assume another great one. 



This year I am working on property repairs and preparing for another great harvest. Having a chance to work alongside my father, Ricardo Herrera, is one of the best learning opportunities for me. He has taught me everything I know. Ever since I was a young Cat I wanted to be involved in the wine Industry. I am glad to have a wonderful team to work with and look forward to many more years and many more harvests together! 


Michael Baldacci
January 21, 2016 | Michael Baldacci

Going Green, Napa Green!


The great part about growing grapes, or any fruit for that matter, is that next year you have a clean slate. The grapes are picked, the vine goes dormant, and the vineyard team now strategizes on how to make improvements in the vineyard. What things went right? What things went wrong? What practices do we want to change next year? Sometimes the vineyard improvements come from tasting the wines, and making changes to things such as canopy management or timing of harvest. Other times it comes from our continued dedication to be stewards of the land, to give back what we take, and 2016 is one of those years. 



We have made a commitment as a team that we are going to continue our sustainable practices, but also begin the process of becoming a Napa Green certified vineyard. It is a voluntary environmental certification program for Napa County vineyards and wineries tailored to the Napa River watershed, and to winery specific practices that when implemented will have a positive affect for the local environment and community. We are excited that a lot of the practices are already things that we do, but our certification will bring the NVV (Napa Valley Vintners) one winery closer to their 2020 Initiative of having all of their participating wineries and vineyards be Napa Green Certified.

Stay tuned for updates! Happy New Year!!  



Brenda Baldacci
January 12, 2016 | Brenda Baldacci

Raising IV Sons


When pregnant with our first son, more than just a few people told me that I was just the "type" to have all boys.  To this day, I'm not sure exactly what "that type" is, but I can honestly say having all boys (now men) has been nothing but pure heaven for me.  Being the only girl in a house of boys, I've always felt like I was part of their team.  They treat me like a lady, but don't hesitate to include me in their kind of fun...this can be anything from a day at the ballpark to hitting the slopes of Tahoe.

          In the early years of having four boys under 6 years old, I soon realized boys wake up with high energy and ready to hit the pavement running! The key to a balanced day was to embrace this, hope for good California weather and hit the outdoors.  On the flipside, I also made it a priority to open the boy’s eyes to another perspective…it was not uncommon for me to dedicate a day to teaching them the fine art of sewing or baking.  I’m not certain those skills are incorporated into their daily routines today, but at least they passed my basic training! 



As a preschool teacher once told me during a rough, wet winter…”The days can be long, but the years are short!” This statement resonates so clear today as the boys are now men and I don’t know exactly where the time went.  Capturing moments through photographs has always been a hobby and pleasure for me~ I am especially grateful for this today so I can reflect on the long days and short years through the pictures of our past.  Today, the future for our family is full of excitement and new beginnings.



Kevin and Kristine were married in October with the most memorable family moment for all of us~ of course, Baldacci Family Vineyards Wine was the hallmark of this special occasion and did not disappoint! Keeping traditions and family together time has always been a priority for Tom and me. With our IV Sons (that will always be my “boys”), we sift through everyone’s busy schedules and find room on the calendar for anything from a tailgate at the 49er game to a spa day at The Solage in Calistoga.  And in between, we always have time for a lively discussion on past reflections, current life events and dreams for the future with each other and a glass of wine! 

Time Posted: Jan 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM
Matt Mills
December 1, 2015 | Matt Mills

"So, are you like a Somm or something?"


Thanks in large part to the popular documentary by the same name, "Somm" has entered the vernacular of even the most novice to wine. While not all of us in the wine industry would call ourselves Somms, most of us do carry the same mission to enhance our own education and appreciation for wine, and to share those experiences with our guests. 

While we are always happy to field questions or give advice there are many educational pathways that are open to everyone at every level of wine experience. 



Court of Master Sommeliers (MS)

Most of the wine industry now recognizes a "Somm" as one who has passed Level 2 of the Court of Master Sommeliers. This distinction is officially bequeathed as "Certified Sommelier" and is awarded by the post nominal "CS" as well as the infamous pin (in this case an oval purple pin) to adorn your lapel. Beyond that is the Advanced Sommelier (Level 3) and the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier (Level 4) which 230 professional globally have earned since 1977. That's only six per year worldwide! Most of these professionals are dedicated to restaurants, as they are well trained in the education, service and pairing of wines. 

While the difficulty increases exponentially with each level, studying and passing Level 1 is accessible to everyone! What amounts to a few weeks of home studying, a classroom session and exam can get you your own starter pin through the Court and one step away from becoming a Somm. 

BONUS FACT: Also at some restaurants you may see wine stewards with a silver cup ( a "tastevin") draped around their neck. While not a Somm, this individual would be a member of La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an order of around 12,000 individuals devoted to defending the wine and region of Burgundy. 



The Wine & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET) 

WSET is similarly set up to the program offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, with four levels of achievement offered. Level 1 is a great starting off point for people new to wine or looking for an intense weekend course in regions, grapes, styles and how to systematically taste wines. Courses are offered both online and in-person throughout the US. 

The primary differnece between these first two educational programs was described to me as WSET students are concerned with ground to bottling (growing, harvesting and production), whereas the Somms focus on bottle to table (selection and service). Pins are also awarded as a means of professional distinction. 

Institute of the Masters of Wine (MW)

After completion of Diploma (Level 4) of the WSET program, a professional can be considered an applicant for the MW certification. Much like the Master Sommelier achievement, this honor has only been bestowed to a total of 391 individual since 1953 (again only six per year!) and up until a couple decades ago was available only to wine professionals in the UK. 

Society of Wine Educators (CSW, CWE)

The Society of Wine Educators offers two post-nominal letters of distinction (CSW and CWE) which are greater predominantly for already seasoned professinals, Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Wine Educator. While a bit more challenging of an entry level course, the CSW is great credential for many of us working in a Tasting Room. While perhaps more aptly called a "generalist of wine" this program exposes the student to a broad range of topics. 



Other programs

Not as common but often utilized by professionals in the sales of world of fine wines internationally, you can also earn credentials as a Certified Wine Professional, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional or American Wine Expert. These are slightly more focused courses that are attainable to people that may have only experienced wine as a consumer. 

Outside Reading

And should you want to hold off on going back to school, there are plenty of options for learning at home. 

"The Wine Bible" by Karen MacNeil

"The Oxford Companion to Wine" by Jancis Robinson MW

"Understanding Wine Technology" by David Bird MW

"Why You Like the Wines You Like" by Tim Hanni MW

"Wine Folly"


Michael Baldacci
October 9, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

That's A Wrap!


The 2015 harvest was unlike any other harvest, this blog gives me a chance to reflect on what was, and what will become of the 2015 harvest.



This year was my 4th harvest at my family’s winery, and I have to say that it was quite memorable.  The unusual weather through the growing season pushed everything up a month. With the unique weather during harvest everything was condensed to about a 1-month practice, when a typical harvest lasts from 6-8 weeks. We had a heat spike right in the middle of September that gave us the hottest days of the year during a period of grape maturation that essentially microwaved the grapes and ripened them 4 weeks ahead of schedule. I will argue that the heat spike will define the 2015 vintage in a GREAT way. 



Every year has its own characteristics, and I have learned that this is what makes wine so much fun. You can never anticipate 100-degree weather right in the middle of harvest followed by rain. However, if every year were the same, all the wines would be the same and that is boring. I am here to tell you that the 2015 vintage may have been a struggle during harvest and was easily one of the quickest harvests, but I believe it will go down in history as one of the best tasting vintages for MANY years to come. The quick heat spike gave the wines some amazing tannins, and the acidity is already mouthwatering. You can never run from the amazing lush fruit that the weather in Napa provides, but this year unlike any other year will AGE and AGE and AGE. I am confident that if you have the patience to save some 2015 wines for 20-30 years, you will be happy that you did!




Now that everything is in the tanks…it’s time for a beer, because we all know the saying “it takes a lot of good beer to make GREAT wine.”


Kellie Duckhorn
September 24, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Pass the Cheese, Please...

This month, our Sundays in Stags Leap feature is all about the cheese. I started thinking about how my appreciation for cheese has been shaped by travel. I remember my first trip to France as a solid swiss and cheddar gal, and suddenly, the evening meal that was finished off with an extraordinary wedge of brie...soft, melt in the mouth buttery goodness placed just so on a crunchy baguette, followed with a swish of a full bodied red Bordeaux. Wow. There was no going back!

My next French cheese adventure was at a local bar, in Macau, a small town outside of Ludon. The wonders of the croque monsieur were soon apparent. I never thought that a "grilled cheese" sandwich could ever be so inspiring! I recall cutting the dripping butter/melting cheese with a good localbeer and some steamed clams. Not bad...


I returned home to work as a stock clerk at the Oakville Grocery Company. This gave me a chance to try and replicate some of these wonderful bread and cheese combinations. The baguettes were from Sciambra bakery and the brie was imported! I felt so enlightened. My family thought I was a snob, but soon, my mom was making her own luxury combination: a toasted walnut half with a small spread of blue cheese chased by a glass of port. Ok, the competition was on...

I remember certain cheeses of the 1980's that were part of our family's hospitality: Cambozola Blue, Maytag Blue, San Joaquin Gold, or Sonoma Dry Jack. Each of these cheeses were arranged just so on a cutting board with sliced baguette and prosciutto (another addiction that sent salami firmly to the sidelines). We played around with the various combinations of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon paired with hard, soft, stinky, mild, local or imported cheese.

As more travel ensued, so did my regional understanding of cheese. From Portugal to Turkey, I tried them all! The simple daily meal of bread, cheese and wine made me realize that most of the pleasure came from the place...a grassy riverbank, the steps of a cathedral, a park bench. To be nourished while taking in my surroundings was a revelation. I love a great restaurant meal, don't misunderstand, but the simplicity of a hunk of bread and a chunk of cheese is bliss.

So, as football season begins, consider upping your game with a wine and cheese pairing. Or, stop in at Sunshine Foods and let Dylan pick out a few select wedges for a park picnic. Pick up a baguette at Bouchon Bakery or a country batard at the Model Bakery, and enjoy!

Easy cheese:

  • Toasted walnut half spread with a bit of Cambozola Blue. Drink with port or a full bodied red wine.

  • Grilled, stuffed pepper. Drink with a chilled dry white wine. 

  • Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold with sliced pink lady apples. Drink with Sencha green tea for breakfast.


Matt Mills
August 19, 2015 | Matt Mills

Touring Napa with 5 Easy Steps

With fall around the corner and harvest vastly approaching we will soon be seeing a lot more of our veteran visitors along with the rookies to make their plans to indulge in everything the Napa Valley has to offer. As Baldacci’s Certified Wine Snob, I have some experience of how to make the most of your trip in Napa Valley. I have created a list of tips to make your next visit to see us even better. 


1. Call Ahead       

The most discussed issue in our Tasting Room is how a surprising the number of wineries are now asking for appointments regardless of party size.

Although perhaps more prevalent now, this has been a legal requirement for most tasting rooms to stay within their permitted usage (of which Baldacci Family Vineyards must also comply) for a number of years and is more broadly referred to as part of the WDO, or Winery Definition Ordinance.

As best practice, call ahead or use online reservation services such as VinoVisit or CellarPass to book your tasting appointment so you get to visit all the wineries on your wish list. The benefit of just a little advance planning will not only eliminate surprises but likely will offer different tasting experiences! Here at Baldacci we have our great patio and bar for tastings but also schedule private tastings and tours in our Cellar for those that inquire ahead of time.

PRO-TIP: Throughout the Valley you can discover more experiences beyond just tasting such as cave tours like Jarvis, food pairings like B Cellars, cooking demonstrations and more…it usually requires nothing more than asking for it ahead of time!


2. Corkage

The Napa Valley is home to some of the most desired restaurant experiences and celebrated chefs, so hopefully planning for a great meal or two while you’re visiting is on your agenda. Since wine runs through the veins of the Valley it shouldn’t be too surprising that nearly every restaurant offers a great selection of vino, from the hamburger joint down the street to our three-star Michelin rated restaurants.   

What may be surprising is that brining an unopened bottle or two to the restaurant, even bottles you discovered that day, is perfectly acceptable. Each restaurant has their own policy on corkage so best to call ahead of time or check out their website to review. Corkage fees average $20 per bottle but are sometimes waived if you buy a bottle off their list. Attentive staff will see the bottle on the table and usually offer to decant for you. Some common corkage policies are to restrict the number of bottles you may bring in or that you may not bring in a wine they already offer. It’s a great way to ensure you have a bottle at your table you know that you enjoy at a fair price.

PRO-TIP: If you bring in a rockstar bottle, do be sure to leave a pour behind for the service staff especially if they did a great job…and sometimes they’ll waive the corkage fee to show their appreciation.


3. Appellation Education

With regard to grape growing and wine production, the Napa Valley is an American Viticultural Area (or AVA for short).

These geographic distinctions are approved by the federal government and are meant to recognize areas that share nearly identical grape growing conditions. With the immense soil diversity the Napa Valley enjoys along with changes in microclimate and elevation we currently have sixteen recognized AVA’s within the Napa Valley AVA itself totaling seventeen different named grape growing regions.

PRO-TIP: Schedule an entire day tasting within one AVA. You’ll develop a deeper appreciation and understanding to what makes that area unique and you’ll save on driving time between wineries. 


4. Get a Driver

Responsible drinking means not driving drunk. A common misconception is that police in Napa Valley are somehow lenient towards or permit impaired driving…nothing could be further from the truth.

A full day of tasting numerous wines and numerous wineries can and will take its toll. There are a wide variety of driving services available, from professional chauffeurs to group tours to individuals hired to drive your vehicle for you. Beyond the immediate benefit of not driving impaired you additionally have a local expert who knows the roads, can help set your agenda, and can recommend new wineries.

PRO-TIP: Always be responsible. 


5. Try Something New

Pretty self-explanatory. If you’re a regular to the Valley it’s easy to get caught up in the favorites and not venture out to experience new tasting rooms, restaurants, art exhibits, hiking trails or hot air balloon rides. Lean on the experience and recommendations of people out here and past visitors…word of mouth is still the number one driver of new guests.

PRO-TIP: Phone a friend. 



Mel Crosby
August 14, 2015 | Mel Crosby

Carnivorous Plants...Friend or Foe?


With Harvest fast approaching, there is a tangible Frenzy upon the air. Along with this beautiful season, comes the subject of fruit flies and the never ending battle to keep them out of the tempting swimming pools on our bar and patio…Also known as our guests wine glasses. Attempts to shoo, dissuade and distract are altogether useless. Methods considered and discarded. Fly strips bought and unused. 



I am happy to report that a solution has been found in the form of Dan. He happened to drop by the tasting room on a quiet afternoon with some special plants he had cultivated. Drum roll please….Venus Fly Traps (Dionaea Muscipula) and a few other carnivorous beauties. Each one has a slightly different style and all are quite efficient. Dan explained to us that some work in an active fashion (trapping prey) or passive (prey becomes immobilized by sticking to the flowers). We now have several of these beautiful yet hungry beasties dotted around our place and I am stunned by the reduction of flying things in general. 



They are simply potted in very wet soil in a container of water and that’s all folks. They must be watered about once a week and meals are on the house so to speak. I’m considering getting a few for my own home.


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