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Dan the Wine Man: Choose Decoy for tasty, value, local wines
Dan the Wine Man

Dan the Wine Man: Choose Decoy for tasty, value, local wines

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Dan Dawson

Dan the Wine Man sampling Decoy wines.

By broadcasting my persona as the accessible, great-value wine finder, I usually have to look farther than Napa and Sonoma. It’s no secret why – making wine here, like everything else, is expensive. Then there’s the fact that Napa and Sonoma grapes can make some of the best wines in the world, and for the past 50 years and more, we’ve marketed this and asked a premium price for our wines. It’s been a great ride, but it means delicious bargain wines from our backyard are hard to come by.

That brings me to today’s recommendation of Decoy Winery. They’re a Napa Valley story with a Sonoma County line-up. There are eight Decoy wines made each vintage and I recommend them all – two of them especially so. The wines, prices and a note on each are below.

Decoy has been under the Duckhorn Winery umbrella since its beginning in 1985. For 22 vintages, there was one Decoy, a Napa Valley red blend. The Decoy line expanded in 2008 and 2009 to seven wines in all, representing Napa, Sonoma and Anderson Valley, Mendocino. The last decade saw the Decoy wines focus (almost) solely on Sonoma County following Duckhorn’s big investment in vineyards and a winery there. Taking Decoy’s own words, they make “ready-upon-release wines that are capable of expressing their full charm and complexity in their youth.”

As a whole, these wines are equally satisfying when you’re home solo with a burger and Netflix or you’re on the town and you find it offered by the glass.

I’ve listed Decoy’s winery-direct prices below (easy to follow – whites and rosé are $20, all reds are $25.) For the best deal, go to Raley’s and Nob Hill Foods in Napa for their 30% off on 6 bottles, mix and match. (Raley’s will have more of them in stock than Nob Hill.) I saw most of the wines at Raley’s last week, and it’s my understanding Raley’s corporation has ordered all of them but maybe not all of them are in Napa. Ask if you can’t find the one(s) you want.

Using the Decoy website’s “Wine Finder,” Whole Foods Napa carries some of the Decoy wines as well. Use the Decoy Wine Finder to see if shops in your area carry them. Enjoy buying and drinking these wines, and let me know what you think.

— Decoy Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County 2018, $20

I like this wine’s citrus-flavored tanginess and how it seems to get richer after you swallow it (the finish). You’d be well-served to have at least six of these always handy for pop-in guests and fish nights at home. This is one of my VERY high recommendations.

— Decoy Chardonnay, Sonoma County 2018, $20

Everything most California Chardonnay drinkers want is here. Cream, toast, baked apples, nutmeg. It’s lush but not obnoxiously so. It doesn’t differentiate itself from its peers, but I don’t’ think that’s Decoy’s intention.

— Decoy Rosé, California 2018, $20

Grapes of Southern France origin used: Syrah, Carignan, Rolle and Grenache. Southern France style it is not, however, as California ripeness is obvious. A little heavier in the mouth than I like. I have no doubt some folks love this Rosé. I’ll look elsewhere. Least enthusiastic recommendation of the eight wines.

— Decoy Pinot Noir, Sonoma County 2017, $25

The Decoy Pinot Noir is full of summer-ripe raspberries and strawberries with a good amount of toasty barrel for good measure. High on the tasty meter, low on the complexity scale. I like the lightness and perky tang it gives in the mouth, which is characteristic of quality Pinot Noir.

Decoy Merlot, Sonoma County 2017, $25

Generous dark berry and cherry fruits, pie spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, toasty coffee cake smells from the barrel ageing, cocoa powder. That’s what I get. Soft tannins and pretty low acidity. It’s super-pleasurable and exactly what most are looking for in a California Merlot at this price.

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County 2017, $25

Red, brambly blackberries and raspberries come to mind along with cassis, fennel, sweet red plums and an earthy/rocky flavor not tasted in any of the other wines (because, I suspect, that most of these grapes come from Decoy’s hillside vineyard in Alexander Valley). Cabernet’s firm tannins swoosh over the gums and roof. More rocky flavors on the finish. Most “earthy” of these wines by far.

Decoy Red Blend, Sonoma County 2017, $25

I really like this wine – it’s my second very high recommendation. Smells and tastes of fresh red berries, French toast (just the smell), black licorice and pomegranate. I prefer its non-jammy character. This can be found for under $20 per bottle. When you do, buy a bunch. The blend is 49% Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Syrah.

Decoy Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2017, $25

Exactly what it’s supposed to be, which is ripe, jammy, spicy and smooth. Like cinnamon toast with butter and raspberry jelly on top. But dry – definitely dry. And a refreshing snap of acidity in the mouth. I think this wine should marry a combo pizza and live happily ever after.

I’m Dan Dawson, a Napa Valley wine writer, wine consumer advocate and former wine merchant and fancy-pants sommelier. Check out my reviews and wine tasting events at When you visit, please check out my membership program. Contact me through my website with questions and comments.

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